US bill proposes visas for people spending $500,000 or more on a house

by Ray Clancy on October 24, 2011

Homeowner visa would be renewable every three years

A bill has been introduced in the United States Senate that would allow foreigners who spend $500,000 or more on a house to obtain visas allowing them to live in the country.

It is part of a package that would also make it easier for international tourists to visit the US is similar to the existing programme that puts foreigners on a fast track to a green card if they invest at least $500,000 in a business that creates a minimum of 10 jobs.

The bill has been introduced by Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Mike Lee who believe that many people want to live in the US and this would encourage them to do so. There are also a large number of business people who want to spend time in the US when they arrive to meet clients.

‘They will be here spending money and paying taxes, and the most important thing is they’ll sop up the extra supply of homes we have right now compared to demand, and that’s what’s dragging our economy down,’ said Schumer.

Nationwide, residential sales to foreigners and recent immigrants totalled $82 billion in the 12 month period to the end of March, up from $66 billion the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors.

According to Sandra Miller, an estate agent with Engel & Volkers in Santa Monica, an international real estate firm that caters to foreign clients, said about 10% of the luxury market now is composed of foreign investors. She estimated that offering them US visas could triple that figure, as well as help sales elsewhere.

‘California, Florida, New York, Colorado, Hawaii and Texas, those states will see a huge increase in demand. The whole Westside would certainly benefit,’ she added.

The legislation would create a new homeowner visa that would be renewable every three years, but the proposal would not put them on a path to citizenship. To be eligible, a person would have to buy a primary residence of at least $250,000 and spend a total of $500,000 on residential real estate. The other properties could be rented.

There would also be restrictions. The purchase would have to be in cash, with no mortgage or home equity loan allowed. And the property would have to be bought for more than its most recent appraised value, Schumer said.

The buyer would have to live in the home for at least 180 days each year, which would require paying US income taxes on any foreign earnings. Buyers would no longer be eligible for the temporary visa if the property were sold.

The buyer would be able to bring a spouse and minor children to live in the US but would need to apply for a work visa to hold a job. Neither the buyer nor dependents would be eligible to receive Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security benefits.

‘The bill does not limit people from being productive. It simply prevents them from coming here and taking jobs that otherwise would go to Americans,’ explained Schumer.

Other proposed changes include allowing Chinese tourists to receive a five year visa that permits multiple visits. Currently they must apply for a new visa every year. Canadians would be allowed to stay in the US for more than 180 days without having to obtain a visa.

Schumer and Lee have lined up support from the US Chamber of Commerce, the US Travel Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

‘For too long, we have created barriers, and too many hoops and hurdles, which act to deter visitors from other countries coming to the United States to spend their money and create jobs. This is a loss we can ill afford in today’s economy,’ said Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

maria May 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm

How long before they approve this bill?

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