New bill proposes visas for immigrants who buy US homes

Immigrants who invest in property in the U.S. may be eligible for new visas if a new bipartisan bill is approved.

The proposal is part of larger immigration measures, co-authored by Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Mike Lee (R., Utah), and is designed to increase foreign investment in the U.S. according to the Wall Street Journal.

"This is a way to create more demand without costing the federal government a nickel," Sen. Schumer said in an interview.

"Our housing market will never begin a true recovery as long as our housing stock so greatly exceeds demand. This is not a cure-all, but it could be part of the solution," Schumer, added.

The proposal would offer a visa to any foreigner making a cash investment of $500,000 on residential real-estate—a single-family house, condo, or townhouse.  Buyers would be required to spend at least $250,000 on one property that would serve as their primary residence and could make up the additional $500,000 requirement with other rental properties.
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However, they would not automatically qualify for a work visa, but merely a residential visa.

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

The bill would co-exist alongside current immigration law which allows foreigners to enter the U.S. if they invest in new companies and create jobs.

Foreigners living in South Florida, Southern California, and Arizona are taking advantage of reduced house prices and a decline in the market, not to mention favorable exchange rates. International buys accounted for over $82 billon in U.S. residential real-estate sales for the year ending in March, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

The proposal is supported by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

"If you wanted to change your immigration policy so that you let 500,000 families in but they have to have a significant net worth and everything, you'd solve things very quickly," Buffett told PBS's Charlie Rose in August.

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