Senators Propose U.S. Visas for Alien Home Buyers with $500K in Cash Investment, Dictators and Drug Lords Lining Up Over There

WSJ reports that Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah) are preparing to introduce a bipartisan bill that would give residence visas to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 to buy houses in the U.S.

According to WSJ, the proposed measure would offer visas to any foreigner making a cash investment of at least $500,000 on residential real-estate—a single-family house, condo or townhouse. Applicants can spend the entire amount on one house or spend as little as $250,000 on a residence and invest the rest in other residential real estate, which can be rented out.

But applicants may want to read the small print if this bill actually pass in Congress. More from WSJ:

Foreigners immigrating to the U.S. with the new visa wouldn’t be able to work here unless they obtained a regular work visa through the normal process. They’d be allowed to bring a spouse and any children under the age of 18 but they wouldn’t be able to stay in the country legally on the new visa once they sold their properties.

The provision would create visas that are separate from current programs so as to not displace anyone waiting for other visas. There would be no cap on the home-buyer visa program.

So, basically, the deep pockets foreigners with $500K can buy houses in the United States, and will be granted resident visas, but they’re not allowed to work. Of course, with 500K, it’s not like they’re the kind you see who shows up to pick apples in Washington State or oranges in Florida.

We are obviously looking for independently wealthy foreigners who do not need to work while they enjoy their new houses in a real American neighborhood. I just renovated my 1910 house, maybe it’s time to put this in the market? Or, I could sell my house to a foreigner and propose to house-sit my house except for the 180 days when the owners are supposed to live in it for U.S. tax purposes. Sounds like a deal?

Folks, have you considered the unintended consequences of this bill? It used to be that people who want to come here and can’t get visas pay smugglers to sneak them in. I hear that the price go from $2,000 to name that price.  Now, under this proposed bill, people with $500K can come here with a resident visa, and we’ll even roll out the red carpet.

Wanna guess who has that much cash floating around? Well, for starters,
dictators, drug lords, drug traffickers and their girlfriends/boyfriends always have that much cash
around, in case.

But, but … that’s not going to happen because they will be screened scrupulously, and they won’t be able to take American jobs because working here without a separate permit would be illegal under this bill. Besides DHS/ICE will go after them. You know, like they’ve gone after other illegal aliens and overstays in this country. The same agency who has no idea when foreign visitors exit the country. Or not.

Oh, and who else has that kind of cash? The banks. Of course, the banks. Imagine this in Fox News: “I meant no harm, I just want to have my kids live in our home in America.” If there is a rush in bank robberies, you know who to blame.

Below is an excerpt from the press release of the Senator Mike Lee, the honorable representative from Utah. Senator Lee might consider getting a new PR writer, this one absolutely flunks on basic details and it reflects badly on the boss:

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 Schumer-Lee bill has been endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel & Lodging
Association and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

A breakdown of the main provisions in the VISIT-USA Act, beyond the homebuyer visa provision, appears below:

  • Encourage Chinese Nationals to Travel to the U.S:  Currently, Chinese
    nationals must apply for a new U.S. visa every year while travelers from
    other countries can receive up to 10-year multiple entry visas. The
    bill would allow Chinese tourists access to 5-year multiple-entry
    visitor visas,  in order to eliminate this significant disincentive to
    travel to the United States. To ensure maximum security, stop terrorism,
    and address fraud concerns, Chinese tourists with 5-year visas will
    also be required to use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
    (ESTA). A recent report showed that the average Chinese visitor to the
    U.S. spends $6,000.
  • Expedite Priority Visitors: Currently,
    many people of means do not travel to the United States because of the
    waiting times for visas. The VISIT-USA Act will allow the State
    Department to charge an extra fee to expedite the processing of a U.S.
    passport just like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service charges
    an extra fee to expedite the processing of a nonimmigrant visa. (HUH? *** see my note below)
  • Introduce Technology Into the U.S. Visa System: Applicants for a U.S.
    visa are often forced to make significant investments of time and money.
    The VISIT-USA Act authorizes the Secretary of State to conduct a
    videoconference pilot program as a method for conducting visa interviews
    of foreign national applicants. This would ensure that U.S. visitors
    spend their money inside the U.S. on our goods and not on going through
    red tape.
  • Encourage Canadian Tourism to the United States:
    Under current law, without a visa, Canadian citizens are not permitted
    to remain in the United States for longer than 180 days.  Many Canadians
    would remain in the United States for a longer period of time during
    periods where the weather is still cold if they had a legal ability to
    do so.  In addition, Canadians who currently return to Canada after 180
    days are unable to take day-trips across the border to
    northern-border-states in America. The VISIT-USA Act creates a new
    “Canadian retiree visa” (non-immigrant visa) that allows Canadians who
    are: (1) over age 50 (with derivative benefits to a spouse and minor
    children); (2) who can show that they own a residence in the United
    States or have purchased rental or hotel accommodations in the United
    States for the duration of their stay; and (3) are not otherwise
    inadmissible – to have a visa that lasts 240 days, and is renewable
    every 3 years.
  • Encourage U.S. Travel During Low Peak Season:
    One of the greatest contributing factors to high visa demand is the
    summer travel season. Given that visa interview wait times typically
    lengthen during the summer months, this bill permits the State
    Department to lower visa application fees during off-peak seasons to
    give travelers the incentive to apply for visas when demand is lower.
  • Expedite Visa for Countries Aiding the U.S. in Fight Against Al Qaeda:
    The Visa Waiver program gives citizens of selected countries the ability
    to travel to the US under the ESTA program, rather than go through the
    more lengthy and complicated US Tourist Visa application process, but
    it’s not available to all U.S. allies.  The VISIT-USA Act amends the
    Immigration and Nationality Act regarding the visa waiver program to:
    (1) authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation
    with the Secretary of State, to designate program countries; (2) adjust
    the criteria for visa refusal rates to permit entry into the program if a
    country has a low visa overstay rate; (3) set a maximum 3% visa
    overstay rate for program countries; and (4) revise probationary status
    and program termination provisions
  • Expediting Entry for
    Priority Visitors:  The global entry program is a U.S. Customs and
    Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for
    pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. At
    the moment, U.S. Customs and Border Protection lacks the ability to add
    specific foreign nationals to the global-entry prescreening system if
    they are not nationals of one of the “participating countries” that the
    United States has a reciprocal agreement with.   This creates problems
    for certain high-priority visitors with decision-making capacity to
    bring important international events—such as the Olympics, the World
    Cup, conventions, etc.—to the United States.  This section would permit
    Customs and Border Protection to add important foreign dignitaries to
    the global entry program on a “case-by-case” basis if they are employed
    by an organization that maintains a strong working relationship with the
    United States and do not pose security risks.

The VISIT-USA Act
represents the most significant reform of the U.S. immigration system in
a generation, all the while adding a significant boost to our economy
through increased foreign investment and tourism. Although a budget
analysis of the proposal is not yet available, the senators said it was
highly likely the package would significantly reduce the deficit through
the increased tax revenues collected from new visa holders living in
the U.S.

I have yet to read the text of the bill but I already feel for our consular officers working at over 250 consular posts.  Videoconferencing, also coming soon to the a virtual interview booth near you.

Might this be a good time to suggest that the State Department invite Senators Schumer and Lee to go through ConGen training and deploy both under temporary consular commissions for at least 180 days at a visa issuing post? Preferably to Guangzhou, Manila, Lagos and Mexico City conducting visa interviews?

It’s a fun gig, you guys!  This would help you both understand the process, as well as teach you that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service process nonimmigrant visa petitions; but nonimmigrant visas are issued by the Department of State.  I know it’s confusing.  You will also learn that the State Department already charges $60 for expedited processing of U.S. passports (*** so no need to add that in the new bill unless you’re upping the tab).  They’ll teach you how to read faces and how to administer a smell test to determine who is telling a fib; a great trick by the way to bring back to Congress.  During training you’ll pretend like you’re in a different country, and then you will actually be shipped to a different country where all your new acquaintances become your best friends as you see them in front of your visa interview window. You won’t regret it ever or forget the experience for that matter! And it will help make you become better legislators especially on this interesting and exciting field of immigration.

Try it, try it … you will like it, you see.

 

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US Funds 90% of Afghanistan’s Total Security, Will Afghanistan Go Back to Rock-Paper-Scissor When US Leaves?

President Karzai Welcomes President Obama to KabulImage via WikipediaImage via WikipediaSecretary Rice meets with Afghan President Ham...Image via WikipediaIn 2009, I wondered out loud in this blog — Did we legally adopt Afghanistan while we were asleep? It’s like Alan Harper of Three and a Half Men asking to stay in his brother’s house, who then end up staying forever ( or at least, until his brother died). Only, in our case, it’s the reverse; we’re like the dead rich brother, before he died.

In August, I finally came to a sad conclusion that our pretend 51st state of Afghanistan is no longer a laughing matter. 

Do you know how bad is the state of our public schools in this country?  I’ve seen 5th graders who can’t even spell, locate their state on the U.S. map, much less, do simple arithmetic when buying a chocolate bar.  If we want to be competitive in the 21st century, we need our limited money invested on the future of this country. But our public officials and politicians seem to think that our work in Afghanistan is essential to our future in the new century. So we pour money over there like there is no tomorrow. Saving Afghanistan means saving us? Right.

Then you read this GAO report that says that the United States have been responsible for 90% of funds that go to Afghanistan’s security expenditures from 2006-2010. So we have propped up this government, underwrite most of its expenses and what happens when we leave? Is Hamid Karzai going back to rock-paper-scissor? No? So, then, does that mean we’re going to stay until the Government of Afghanistan grows its revenue from 9% to 100%, or when it is able to pay for its own soldiers’ salaries and its own electric fuel, etc. etc. , whichever happens first?

I am not against foreign aid or even military aid per se. But let’s keep some perspective here. We’re not running on a surplus. We have an exploding boomer population, we have dilapidated public infrastructures, and we have our future suffering through some major budget cuts right now.  

And we’re stuck in the muck called Afghanistan. And this is for our own good? Excuse me if I don’t drink that kool aid, sir. And I really would like us to leave and let them get on with their own nation building while we do ours at home. 

Excerpted from GAO’s report on Afghanistan’s Donor Dependence:

Afghanistan’s estimated total public expenditures.
Afghanistan’s estimated total public expenditures more than doubled from solar year (SY) 2006 to 2010, growing from $5.5 billion to $14.3 billion, an increase of 160 percent. Over this 5-year period, about 79 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated total public expenditures of $54 billion were off budget.

Donor funding.
The United States and other donors funded about 90 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated total public expenditures from SY2006 to 2010. In particular, donors funded on average 57 percent of on-budget expenditures and 100 percent of off-budget expenditures. Over this period, the United States provided 62 percent of estimated total public expenditures, while other donors provided 28 percent. The United States funded an estimated 90 percent of Afghanistan’s total security expenditures during this time period. The United States funded an estimated 39 percent of Afghanistan’s total non-security expenditures during SY2006 to 2010.

Afghanistan’s domestic revenues.
The domestic revenues of GIRoA grew by an average annual rate of 30 percent from SY2006 to 2010, increasing from an estimated total of $0.62 billion to $1.66 billion. Customs duties and taxes such as income and property taxes provided the largest share of domestic revenues. However, domestic revenues funded only about 9 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated total public expenditures from SY2006 to 2010.

GAO _Afghan Donor Dependence | September 2011http://www.scribd.com/embeds/69620987/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-16u1d9c7r76j9e7mk004
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Arab Spring Not Done Yet, Who’s Next Among the World’s "Forever" Rulers?

Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan chief of state, at...Image via WikipediaPresident George W. Bush escorts President Hos...Image via Wikipedia
Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali at ...Image via WikipediaThis is an update of the post we did back in February when Egypt had its people power. With Muammar Qaddafi now dead, we can’t help but wonder who will be the next one to fall.

MUAMMAR AL-QADDAFI of Libya
Since September 1969
Years in power: 41
(killed on October 20, 2011)

ALI ABDULLAH SALEH of Yemen
Assumed office as President of North Yemen in 1978
As President of Yemen from 1990–present
Years in power: 32


TEODORO OBIANG MBASOGO of Equatorial Guinea

Since August 1979

Years in power: 32


JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOS of Angola
September 1979
Years in power: 32

ROBERT MUGABE of Zimbabwe
Since February 1980
Years in power: 31


HOSNI MUBARAK of Egypt
Since October 1981
Years in power: 29

(deposed from power on February 11, 2011)

PAUL BIYA of Cameroon
Since November 1982
Years in power: 29

YOWERI MUSEVENI of Uganda
Since January 1986
Years in power: 25

BLAISE COMPAORÉ of Burkina Faso
Since October 1987
Years in power: 24

ZINE EL ABIDINE BEN ALI of Tunisia
Since bloodless coup in November 1987
Years in power: 23

(forced to flee to Saudi Arabia on
14 January 2011; sentenced in absentia to 35 years in prison on 20 June 2011)

OMAR HASSAN AL-BASHIR of Sudan
Since 1989
Years in power: 22

ISLAM KARIMOV of Uzbekistan
Since March 1990
Years in power: 21

IDRISS DÉBY of Chad
Since December 1990
Years in power: 20

Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
Since May 1991
Years in power: 20

Bashar al-Assad of the Syria
Assumed office on 17 July 2000
(after death of father, Hafez al-Assad  who was in power for three decades)
Years in power: 11
(emergency law since 1963, 9.2.% unemployment, and 30% of the population lives in poverty)

Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria
Assumed office 27 April 1999
Years in office: 11
(highly educated population, 10 % unemployment rate, under 15 years old youth bulge at 30%)

* * *

KING MSWATI III of Swaziland
Came to the throne in April 1986
Years in power: 24


King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
since 6 March 1999 as Emir


since 14 February 2002 as King

Years in power: 12 years
 
(2011 Bahraini Uprising)

Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Ascended the throne on 7 February 1999
(after death of father, King Hussein who was in power for 46 years)
Years in power: 12 years
(highly educated population with chronic high unemployment rate)


Mohammed VI of Morocco
Ascended the throne on July 1999
(after death of father, Hassan II of Morocco who was in power for 38 years)
Years in power: 12 years
(second most populous Arab country after Egypt, 10% unemployment rate)


King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia
Ascended the throne on August 1, 2005
(after death of half-brother, King Fahd who was in power for 23 years)
Years in power: 6 years
(
issues with corruption, religious extremism and 11.6% unemployment rate)
(Corrected:
Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud died of unspecified illness in New York, October 2011)