Federal Issues CommitteeThe following is for study only and has NOT been approved by the Board of Directors.
Issue:Should C.A.R. pursue the issue of creating a new U.S. Visa designation, the purpose of which is to allow immigration of foreign nationals who are of retirement age, have documented income and own U.S. real property?
Action:Action is requested by the committee at this time because NAR will be addressing this issue at their upcoming May 2007 business meetings.
Options: 1. Take a “Support” position 2. Take an “Oppose” position 3. Take a “Neutral” position 4. Take a “Not Real Estate Related” position 5. Take no action
Background:At the NAR 2006 November business meetings, some REALTORS® brought up the issue of creating a new Visa designation to allow retired foreigners to stay in the U.S. so they may fully use their U.S. property. The argument was that current Visa restrictions required them to return to their home country and were thus a deterrent to them purchasing properties in the U.S.
Summary:Generally a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a Visa—either a nonimmigrant Visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant Visa for permanent residence. The Visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a United States port-of-entry and request permission of theU.S. immigration inspector to enter the U.S. The “visitor” Visa is a nonimmigrant Visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1), and for pleasure or medical treatment (B-2). For example, if the purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social or service nature, then a visitor Visa (B-2) would be the appropriate type of Visa for your travel. This is the primary Visa type for those wishing to stay in the U.S. for pleasure purposes that last more than three months.
The Visa itself does not governthe length of stay. B-2 Visas are valid for ten years. However, the length of stay is determined on the I-94 form and the decision is made by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Office (USCIO) at the point of entryinto the U.S. Below are the commonly accepted lengths of stay.
Length of Stay in US:
6 months renewable for a total of 12 months
I-94 w/ B-2 status
Outlook:After speaking with thefederal agencies that deal with immigration issues, including the Department of Homeland Security, NAR has established that Congressional legislation is required to create a new Visa designation.
Immigration politics have always been contentious, and the creation of a vehicle to allow people to stay in this country year round without being permanent residents will likely spark considerable debate. It has not been the policy of the U.S. to allow this for those not seeking to be permanent residents and/or to work. Even a well-crafted proposal could lead to debate about such things, as the negative impacts on the social welfare system incidental to the presence of a significant population of older foreigners. In short, any proposal that has the appearance of creating an opening for non-citizens and people who do not wish to be citizens to enter this country will have implications beyond the narrow parameters of the proposal.
The most likely scenario for a bill to pass would be attaching it to a larger immigration bill as an amendment. This presents a tremendous challenge and would force C.A.R. to lobby onissues that it has never lobbied previously. Attaching a retirement Visa bill to an immigration bill may link REALTORS® to the issue of immigration as a whole and could spark public outcry against us just as corporations caused public outcry with their support of the immigration bills last year.
Pro:Supporters of a retirement Visa point out that the current U.S. Visa system allows for too short of a time for a foreign property owner to utilize a vacation or second home residence in the U.S. Those visitors who wish to stay beyond the time indicated on their I-94 form must contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Servicesto request an application to extend status. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is noted that if granted a six month extension, a person must then leave the U.S. and reapply to return. In these circumstances, a short stay out of the U.S. is not viewed favorably when seeking readmission. It can be interpreted as a de facto “intention to remain” in the U.S. which implies that a person should be seeking a Visa under the various immigrant Visa programs.
At present, the only other way to remain in the U.S. for a stay in excess of 12 months is to apply for permanent residence under a variety of programs, none of which easily conform to the situation of a retired person. There are more than 80 immigrant and non-immigrant-type Visas and various permanent residency programs. Most require work or some other special circumstances in order to remain permanently.
Cons:There are many existing options for foreigners who wish to remain in the U.S. including applying for resident alien status. Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security is resistant to the idea and believes that the current system of Visas, coupled with immigration options, meets the needs of most people who own vacation/ retirement property in the U.S.
There are also a number of questions that have yet to be answered. These include:
Is this a real issue? Have REALTORS® experienced a high number of retiring foreigners who wish to purchase property but are deterred because of the current U.S. Visa structure?
If a problem does exist, how big is it and how many resources will be required to pass a legislative fix? Will higher-priority issues suffer?
Have any other organizations been approached or recognized as having interest in the issue?
What organizations may be opposed? The issue of immigration is extremely contentious and both sides are notorious for their public campaigns. Would REALTORS® be able to navigate the political waters without upsetting either side?
What is the cost-to-benefit ratio? Because REALTORS® would be spearheading this issue and the cost would be substantial, are the gains justified?
If a Visa were created to allow foreign nationals year-round residence, many parameters would need to be addressed:
1) What type of assets must the Visa applicant have to ensure they have the means to support themselves? What would be the nature and size of provable streams of income required? How would it be proven?
2) How much must their U.S. property be worth?
3) What would be the duration of the Visa termand length of stay? What interval of time out of the country would be necessary prior to reapplication for admittance? If the Visa were to allow someone to be year round, how would it be differentiated from permanentresident status?
4) What, if any, benefits would the person and/or their family and guests be eligible for?
5) What would the fee structure for the Visa be?
6) Whatsecurity qualifications/limitations would apply?
Impact on REALTORS®: REALTORS® in vacation areas are likely to benefit from a potentially new clientele for their markets.
NAR Position: NAR does not have formal policy on this issue; however, at NAR’s November business meetings in New Orleans the NAR BOD took the following position:
“ThatNAR explore federal legislation to create a non-work retirement residency card for foreign nationals who are over 55 years of age, have documented income and own U.S. real property”
C.A.R. Position:C.A.R.does not currently have policy on this issue.