Senators Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have presented a bipartisan plan entitled the "Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act." It rewards wealthy foreign real estate buyers with a temporary residency card. Is this proposal really a good idea?
Whom does the VISIT-USA Act target?
Lee outlines the proposal is designed to "reduce barriers for Canadian and Chinese visitors" whose spending habits make them valuable tourists for the U.S. It also applies to this country's allies in the fight against al-Qaida.
What does the plan propose?
Known as S. 1746, the measure covers tourism, border security and foreign investments in American real estate. Specifically, it:
* Lets American federal agencies use videoconferencing and mobile interviewing units when conducting screenings of foreigners;
* Speeds up the visa filings of priority applicants, such as nationals from India, Brazil and China;
* Issues a "three-year residential visa" for a foreign investor who spends $500,000 (or more) on American residential real estate;
* Offers a three-year renewal term upon expiration.
Are there limitations and requirements that the foreign investor must meet?
Would-be temporary immigrants hoping to take advantage of this residential visa process must spend at least $250,000 on a primary residence, which the buyer then occupies for a minimum of 180 days each year. This home cannot be bought for less than 100 percent of its recently appraised value.
What's in it for the U.S.?
Sen. Lee emphasizes the three-year visa is more like a tourist visa than an immigrant visa. Recipients cannot apply for government benefits and must make the real estate payment in cash, as opposed to via a mortgage loan. The lawmakers explain this controlled increase of demand generation in the housing market benefits homeowners who have a hard time selling their houses, which are currently worth less than what is owed on them. "Our housing market will never begin a true recovery as long as our housing stock so greatly exceeds demand," Political News quotes Schumer.
What are business leaders saying?
"For too long, we have created barriers, and too many hoops and hurdles, which act to deter visitors from other countries coming to the United States to spend their money and create jobs," Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue told the Los Angeles Times. The proposed program also resonates with frustrated California homeowners, who are suffering through a foreclosure crisis in the wake of failed government programs that targeted home ownership retention.
Sylvia Cochran offers an insider's perspective of the American immigration system. Having gone through the steps of becoming a citizen -- and currently living in a border state -- she brings hands-on familiarity with hot-button issues to the table.