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.

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.

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.