While Canadians still comprise the number one group of foreign buyers of real estate statewide in Florida, América Economía is now reporting that Brazilians have surpassed Canadians as the top overseas visitors and property buyers in Miami.  Currently, U.S. business industry groups are aggressively lobbying the U.S. Congress to make it easier for Canadians and Brazilians to come to Miami to spend their hard-earned Canadian dollars and reais.

Barriers to Attaining Tourism Visa

According to reports, approximately 690,000 Brazilians visited Miami in 2012 (an 8.8% increase from 2011), spending an estimated $1.5 billion.  And the Consul General of Brazil in Miami estimates that this number would have been much higher had Brazil been included in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) (there are 37 countries that participate in the VWP — although there are no participant countries from Latin America!).  Indeed, the visa requirements for would-be Brazilian tourists are oftentimes cost-prohibitive.  In addition to paying the $160 fee, per person, for each tourism visa, the would-be Brazilian tourist often has to travel to a major city such as São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro to apply for, and obtain, the visa. 

JOLT Act to Encourage Visa Process

Eager to increase their members’ business with Brazilians and other Latin American tourists, business industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the U.S. Travel Association have been pushing legislation that would allow Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and other countries to participate in the VWP.  Recently, the “Jobs Originated Through Launching Travel” (“JOLT”) Act, H.R. 1354, which was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2013, would do just that, in addition to streamlining the visa process and expanding the highly successful Global Entry Program administered by the Transportation Safety Administration.

Conversely, Canadians have long enjoyed visa-exempt status, which allows most Canadians tourists meeting specific criteria to enter the U.S. for 90 days or less for limited business purposes or for pleasure by simply presenting their passports at any U.S. port of entry.  Under the proposed JOLT Act, Canadians would see many other travel restrictions disappear, and Canadian visitors over the age of 50 would enjoy an increased period of admittance in the U.S. (up to 240 days if certain criteria are met). Although Canadians will still have to be mindful of Canadian government restrictions imposed on its residents in connection with, among other things, the maintenance of Canadian healthcare coverage.

One reason that Brazilians seem to be enjoying a newfound place atop the list of investors, is some Canadians’ exploration of other markets in Florida – including Sarasota.  However, do not count our neighbors to the north out of The Magic City market by any means.  As foreign investors – often Canadians – start trending younger and seek to build strong real estate holdings, the combination of multiple daily direct flights from major Canadian cities to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, coupled with the continuing strength of the Canadian dollar, is sure to continue to fuel Canadian investment in the Miami market. 

Thus, notwithstanding a little healthy competition from Brazil – don’t expect to see the Canadians staying north anytime soon.