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Two US Senators propose new residential investment visa

Two United States Senators have introduced a bill that would create a new residential homeownership visa for foreign nationals. The measure is apparently intended to shore up the sagging housing market in the United States. The bi-partisan proposal would allow foreign nationals to receive a three-year residential temporary visa for investing at least $500,000 in residential real estate. The proposal allows the investment to be divided as long as at least $250,000 is used to purchase a primary residence. If the money is split, the investor could reach the $500,000 level by purchasing separate properties and could rent out the home or homes that are not used as the primary residence.

The Senate bill places some restrictions on the purchases. The $500,000 or more residential real estate investment must be made in cash. The homeowner would not be allowed to apply for a mortgage, or home equity loan on the property. The visa-holder would be required to live in the primary U.S. residence for at least 180 days each year and pay U.S. taxes, including on foreign income. The new residential visa holder would also have to apply separately for a work visa, if the person wishes to work in the U.S.

Officials say the new proposal is somewhat similar to the EB-5 visa program. This blog has reported several stories about EB-5 visas. The program allows foreign nationals to obtain a visa for investing at least $500,000 in a U.S. business that creates at least 10 new jobs over two years.

The new residential visa proposal would not place the immigrant on a path to citizenship. The visa would be renewable every three-years, and the temporary visa would no longer be valid if the residential properties involved in the $500,000 investment were sold.

Real estate data shows that across the nation, residential home sales to foreign owners and recent immigrants totaled $82 billion in the 12-month period ending March 31, the latest statistics available. Florida currently leads the nation in overall home purchases by foreign nationals and recent immigrants.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Bill would encourage foreigners to buy U.S. homes," Jim Puzzanghera and Lauren Beale, Oct. 20, 2011

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