Extending Canadian Visas Could Give Sarasota Economy a Big JOLT

Posted by Julian Yates on Monday, April 27th, 2015 at 5:14pm.

There's no doubt about it, Canadians are hot for Florida. And who could blame them? Sarasota's Siesta Beach is beautiful, but it undoubtedly takes on a whole new level of grandeur for those whose often face consecutive months of below-freezing temperatures.

But if our neighbors from the north want to stay longer to escape the cold, they run into a hitch: American visas for Canadians are only good for six months. This meant that they would have to either return to Canada, or file for an extension of stay with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

This might not seem like a big deal until you consider some facts compiled by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

  • 70 percent of Canadian visitors who come to the U.S. for a month or longer visit Florida.
  • 76,000 Canadians rented properties in Sarasota or Manatee Counties in 2014.
  • 9,571 properties in Sarasota or Manatee Counties are owned by Canadians.

While most Canadian tourists do only stay for a few weeks or months, it is clear that there are many who wish to stay longer than the six month limit. They might just get their wish if legislation called the JOLT Act passes.

Also known as H.R. 1401, the JOLT Act will expand the Visa Waiver Program. There is a provision in the legislation aimed at Canadian tourists which would allow certain Canadians to visit the U.S. for as long as eight months (240 days). To be eligible, the Canadian citizen must meet the following qualifications:

  • is at least 50 years old. 
  • maintains a residence in Canada.
  • owns a residence in the U.S. or has signed a rental agreement for the duration of the person's stay in the U.S. 
  • will not be employed in the U.S. 
  • will not seek certain benefits or assistance from the U.S. government.

Considering the tourist statistics mentioned earlier, it is clear that Sarasota and Manatee Counties stand to benefit considerably in terms of both the housing/rental markets and overall economy. The same Herald-Tribune article calculates the economic impact to Florida as high as $1 billion -- again with a large portion of that going to Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Already many U.S. home lenders have loosened up mortgage restrictions for Canadians wishing to purchase a second home in the states. If passed, the JOLT Act would encourage many more Canadians to consider buying a second home or vacation property, and this would obviously have a very positive impact on the local housing industry.

With the world getting smaller due to modern communication and low-cost travel, living and owning property in another country is becoming more appealing to people everywhere. When it benefits our local economy so positively, it stands to reason that should welcome our Canadian neighbors with open arms and share a little more of our Florida sunshine with them. At the time of this writing it is 34 degrees Fahrenheit and rainy in Toronto, Canada. In Sarasota, Florida, it is 80 degrees and sunny.

Julian is a happy Sarasota resident and your go-to guy for information about the perks of living in paradise. For more, get in touch with Julian directly via the Sarasota Property Finders Contact Page.


Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist

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