As Manitoba’s snowbirds are getting ready to head south for the winter, lawmakers in the United States are working to keep them there longer.

A bill introduced by two American senators is calling for special visas to be made available to Canadian travellers aged 50 and over.

Lucien Desmarais and Marilyn White are preparing to leave their home in Winnipeg for the winter and head to Arizona for their first full winter.

 “(I) got a taste of the lifestyle and now I want more of it,” said Desmarais.

Desmarais will spend six months in the southern U.S. – the maximum amount of time a Canadian citizen who owns property there can legally stay.

After that six months, Desmarais has to wait another six months to return to the U.S.

“If I use up my six months, I’d like to be able to go to Minneapolis, St. Paul for a week or to the states – Grand Forks, Fargo – to do some shopping,” said Desmarais.

The new bill would allow people like Desmarais to stay eight months instead of six.

The Canadian Snowbirds Association met in Brandon Friday to discuss the possible implications for seniors heading south.

“I think it’s a great idea, especially for those of us who live right on the border,” said Bob Slack, the president of the association. “At the present time, if we spend the full amount of time and live close to the border, you can’t go back across the border to do any golfing or any leisure activities.”

The senators behind the bill have argued it would boost tourism and help the ailing American economy.

Slack believes the bill has a good chance of going through because it was introduced by both a Democrat and a Republican – meaning the bill has bipartisan support.

But Manitoba laws may still keep snowbirds grounded in Canada for longer than they would like.

Under Manitoba laws, people who live out of the province for more than six months a year lose their health benefits.

The association is lobbying the province to allow snowbirds to be out of the province for longer than six months.