Wednesday, December 21, 2011

USA visas to be easier to procure in the future?

What is Happening with the Retiree Visa and Homeownership Visa Proposal (S. 1746 and H.R. 3341)?

With much fanfare on October 20, US Senators Schumer and Lee introduced the long awaited Canadian retiree visa proposal and a companion homeownership visa proposal. Many of us have lobbied for years for the retiree legislation. Now, with public endorsements from Washington-savvy organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Travel Association, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association, this bill seems to have a lot going for it-but nothing is happening.

As is customary, the bill was read twice in the Senate. The bill was then, appropriately, sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee for further consideration. To date, no Committee hearings have been scheduled. Calls to Senator Schumer's office have been met with "most bills introduced never make it out of committee..." No organization has made any identifiable public effort to get the bill moving. There is no movement of the House companion bill H.R. 3341 either.

The lack of movement is a good lesson in US politics. From our perspective, four kinds of bills are introduced in Congress:

a) A momentum bill. A bill that has a natural momentum all its own. It is pushed to approval by circumstance with no meaningful opposition. These come in two flavors: the meaningful (the December 8, 1941 Declaration of War on Japan and Germany) and the meaningless (National Ice Cream Day on the third Sunday in July).

b) A self-interest bill. A bill that moves forward because it is in the self-interest of a member or members of Congress. It makes a member look very good. It saves a member's political or financial bacon. Or, refreshingly, a member decides that it is simply the right thing to do.

c) An opportunity bill. A bill that makes sense and has some public support, but no member of Congress is going to put limited time, money, and energy behind it unless there is a compelling reason to do so. In other words, opportunity bills become self-interest bills and then become law through public support/pressure.

d) A dead-on-arrival bill. A bill introduced at the request of and to please a constituent. Though the bill does no political harm to the member introducing it, the bill has no chance of ever becoming law. Members from conservative districts might propose sealing the borders, eliminating the Department of Education, or making English the only language used in government publications. Members from liberal districts might propose free university education, a ban on hunting, or a cabinet level department of alternative energy. Under current circumstances, none of these proposals will go anywhere, but in every congressional session you will see these bills or bills like them.

Though we thought S. 1746 (VISIT-USA) was a momentum bill, it is an opportunity bill. It is, emphatically, not dead-on-arrival.

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