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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

Schumer Plan Would Grant Non-Immigrant Visas to Homebuyers

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Some of you have been noting in the comments the recent announcement of a bill sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to provide three year visas to foreign nationals who buy homes worth at least $500,000. The plan would be to help stimulate the housing market in the US which many believe is causing the entire US economy to remain in the doldrums.


The plan is called The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act (VISIT-USA Act). According to Senator Schumer's office:


The Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act (VISIT-USA Act) would remove bureaucratic red tape that stifles travel and investment in the U.S. For instance, the bill would reduce barriers for Canadian and Chinese visitors whose consumer spending provides a lift to the U.S. economy. The bill would also expedite priority visa applicants, introduce videoconferencing as a means to screening foreign nationals, and make major changes to visa procedures for U.S. allies in the fight against al Qaeda.


To confront the housing crisis, the legislation would provide, for the first time, a three-year residential visa for foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in residential real estate in the United States. At least $250,000 must be spent on a primary residence where the visa holder will reside for at least 180 days out of the year while paying taxes to the U.S.  Applicants would still be subject to standard criminal and national security background checks and, once approved, would not be able to receive government benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  The program would not serve as a path to citizenship for foreign nationals. Real estate analysts have said this proposal could lift demand for U.S. homes and help ease the housing crisis. Famed investor Warren Buffett has also supported the concept of enticing foreign homebuyers previously.


The bill is actually not that different than a bill I drafted a few years ago that created a retiree visa. Applicants would get a four year visa if they bought a home putting down at least $250,000 cash, demonstrating adequate health care coverage (either through insurance, personal assets or coverage by the home country), and demonstration of enough resources not to have to work in the US. A "snow bird" visa would be great for states like Florida and Arizona that get lots of Canadian and European tourists would like to spend more time in the US if they could get some certainty that they won't buy a home and then not be able to actually live here.


Schumer's bill has some other good ideas including introduction of an expedite fee to the visa application process, allowing Chinese nationals to get ten year multiple entry tourist visas (like most other countries) instead of the one year approvals they get now and allowing Canadian retirees to spend up to 240 days per year in the US instead of 180


 

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Comments

  1. Jack's Avatar
    This is being panned as a gimmick from a housing demand standpoint but at least makes sense from a fiscal standpoint. Market purists would rather literally sell the visa but if you can capture income tax it's kind of an indirect way to sell visas. The market rationale is get top dollar for a scarce commodity. The pro-immigration juice in this country, though, is more into poor immigrants than wealthy--either from wanting cheap labor or from ethnic chauvinism (and reliable Democrat votes). The government gives visas away to and condones the illegal presence of people whose income is low enough that when they file no tax will be owed--but child credits will be headed back. The Treasury is literally paying people to be here whether they're legally entitled to be here or not. We could require hirers to insure their imported labor but we let them pass that cost on to the taxpayers. At whose behest? Investment visas, Greg's retiree visas, etc. might make more sense than current policy but since when does making sense (for the public--as opposed to special interests) matter when it comes to what gets passed? Not just immigration but anything, e.g., Medicare Part D.
  2. Legal and no longer waiting's Avatar
    "or from ethnic chauvinism (and reliable Democrat votes)"

    You forgot the poor uneducated obese rural ethnic chauvinist whites. The reliable Republican voters.
  3. Another Voice's Avatar
    The investment could be broken into multiple properties, and also can be rental properties. Which is I think what they want to achieve although not sure if property management is considered working as they would have to become property managers. It is a good idea but foreigners are already buying a lot of property in south FL I guess the want that to continue to help housing a bit but is not the answer to housing. But perhaps if instead of paying a fine you give incentive to out of status individuals to buy a house, pay taxes on it I bet you out of the 11 million people even if you get 10% to purchase a home that would help housing and bring in revenue to the states. But they won't touch that with a 10ft pole. If you reform Immigration and add legal Immigrants which tend to have higher income levels it would be even better.
  4. Danielle Beach 's Avatar
    most interesting development.
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