STORY, POLL: Green Card Blues - Welcoming foreigners could boost local economy

Foreign attorney Christopher Preston believes loosening some immigration laws could stimulate the economy

Should wealthy foreigners be granted permanent residence?

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English attorney Christopher Preston wants to retire here and build a home, but immigration laws allow him only a six-month visa. He thinks allowing wealthy foreigners to settle here full-time could boost the economy. Submitted photo

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English attorney Christopher Preston wants to retire here and build a home, but immigration laws allow him only a six-month visa. He thinks allowing wealthy foreigners to settle here full-time could boost the economy. Submitted photo

A semi-retired English corporate tax lawyer, Christopher Preston hopes to retire in the next year.

And he’d love to retire on Marco Island, but is stymied by the fact that visas are granted only on a six-month basis.

Permanent residence (the Green Card) is available only to foreigners who start businesses and employ Americans, or to people who possess skills the government desires.

Preston’s point is that many wealthy foreigners would like to remain in the United States, thereby boosting the economy with their independent spending power.

His plan to boost the state economy, and indeed that of Marco Island is as follows:

1. House building in Florida is at a virtual standstill. Banks are not lending sufficiently to generate a recovery in the housing market.

A strong new house building programme has obvious benefits for the economy, not just in relation to builders and the employment created in that industry, but also the support sectors, home furnishing, home maintenance etc.

2. There is an untapped source of funding for house building in Florida (and no doubt other parts of the US) in the form of high net wealth individuals in Europe who would like to retire to the US.

3. The problem with building a retirement home in the US at the moment , for non US citizens, is that you cannot get a green card and the right to live in the US.

This means if you build a home here, it lies empty for the six months when you have to leave the US. This is hardly an incentive to foreigners to build in Florida.

4. Eligibility for a green card depends in the main on having a right to work here.

So foreigners who come to the US and want to work put US jobs at risk but can still get green cards with appropriate sponsorship.

There are investment categories which can lead to green cards, but again this means taking an active business interest in the underlying investment.

5. European baby boomers who have holidayed in Florida would like to retire to Florida to live.

They do not want to work in the US. They do not need state support as they have sufficient wealth to maintain themselves.

They do not want to work and so pose no threat to US jobs. On the contrary their wealth will create jobs.

6. Accordingly, if the green card programme was amended to allow green cards, and citizenship eventually, to persons of independent means who would like to live and retire to Florida there would be immediate benefits to the economy.

7. We are such persons and are investigating building on a lot we own in Marco Island Florida.

The cost of the home is going to be in the region of $1 million.

There will be additional furnishing costs, and we would expect to buy a car if we became full time residents. 1000 people like us would create at least $1 billion in new building.

There is no incentive to build , however, if we cannot stay in the house for more than six months a year.

It makes no sense as a project to build a $1 million home just for occasional use.

I am semi retired and looking to retire fully in the next year. I am 58.

If there is no relaxation in the rules, the likelihood is that far from investing here we will sell our current holiday condo and pull our money out of the US.

8. A relaxation of the immigration rules to allow persons to retire and live in the US provided they are willing to build a new home would provide an immediate stimulus to the housing market and the local economy at no cost to the State or Federal Government.

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Comments » 1

StefanBolsen writes:

I couldn't agree more. I am a Germany licensed attorney and Real Estate Broker on Marco Island with Engel & Voelkers Marco Island Realty ( we have lots of clients from our 350+ international offices, who would like to stay for a longer time in FL. I wrote an article about the European client, who could spark the FL real estate market and was quoted here:
It is not only the Immigration Law that slams the breaks on real estate investments, but also high property taxes in FL, drivers license and insurance regulations. We experience more European interest in local real estate right now with declined property values. Germany alone invested in 2007 $414B in the US! Guess what the stimulus would be for us with a smarter Immigration Law.

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