Politics & Government

Canadian snowbirds could get more time to roost in Florida

Some seasonal Canadian visitors could get an extra two months in the United States under a bill introduced by Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott.

The Canadian Snowbirds Act would allow Canadian citizens to spend up to eight months in the U.S., two months more than the current limit, as long as they were older than 50 and owned or rented a residence here.

“This bill will be a huge boost to our state’s economy,” Rubio said Thursday in an announcement of the bill. Citing statistics from the Canadian Embassy, Rubio’s office said Canadians visiting Florida contribute more than $6.5 billion a year to the state’s economy. An estimated 3.5 million of Florida’s 126 million visitors last year came from Canada.

“A win-win for people on both sides of the border,” the Toronto-based Canadian Snowbird Association president Karen Huestis said in a statement of support released through Rubio’s office.

Currently, Canadians can stay in the U.S. for up to six months. After that, they are considered U.S. residents for tax purposes and, under existing law, must pay U.S. federal income taxes on any and all income they earn that year, regardless of the country where they earn it.

If passed, the Snowbird Act would allow qualified Canadian citizens to remain here for up to 240 days each year. The bill bans those visitors from working for American employers or seeking public assistance while in the U.S.

No fewer than 350,000 Canadians spend three to six months in Florida, according to Canadian Snowbird Association. Nearly 100,000 more spend one to three months in the state.

In 2017, thanks partly to a favorable exchange rate, Canadians bought $7 billion worth of real estate in Florida. Twelve percent of those purchases took place in the Tampa Bay area, according to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, second only to Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The agency also noted that Canadians are active in the Bradenton-Sarasota market, as well.