The Visit USA bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer of New York on Oct. 20, 2011, and a similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii on Nov. 3.
S 1746 and H.R. 3341 are wide-ranging bills that seek to amend the Immigration and National Act to stimulate international tourism to the U.S. Both bills are under review by different congressional committees.
Among many other goals, the bills call for the establishment of a non-immigration visa for overseas residents who invest and maintain at least $500,000 in U.S. residential real estate, of which at least $250,000 must be for a U.S. primary residence where such person will reside for more than 180 days per year.
The World Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta endorses this legislation and supports its passage as soon as possible. The following commentary is by Dan Moss, vice president of the chamber, and a senior vice president at MorganStanley SmithBarney.
There are 1.5 million homes now in foreclosure and another two million in pre-foreclosure. Of those still in their homes, eleven million are worth less than the mortgages on them. House prices have dropped 58 months in a row.
Robert Shiller, professor of housing economics at Yale University, said our house prices could drop another 25 percent in the next five years. With the seventy six million Baby Boomers aging and now spending less and less every year and the 46 million generation X unable to take up the slack, we must look to foreign buyers to stimulate our real estate markets.
With 14 million Americans unemployed, 40 million on food stamps and incomes of those who are still employed down substantially, America needs a real “game changer”. These new buyers would provide that stimulus. As our economy strengthens, we pull the rest of the world up with us, buying from them, thereby making them more affluent so they can buy more from us. Everybody wins.
The housing meltdown and unemployment are twin disasters joined at the hip. It is estimated that the American middle class lost over $7 trillion in house value equity, virtually gutting most of their savings.
This bill would help clear up the vast unsold inventory, then new construction could start creating jobs from laborers to lawyers. For each house that sells, one job is created, not counting the builders of the house, as the transaction ripples through the economy.
These new homebuyers under VISIT-USA will not only buy houses but they will need cars, furniture, insurance, phones, legal, medical and banking services. They will be in our malls, restaurants, hotels and airports. The resulting upswing in house prices would bring renters, who have been waiting until house prices “bottom out”, into the market to buy.
As house prices go up, consumer confidence goes up since homeowners feel wealthier as a result. Economic studies show that these consumers spend more money, driving the economy up across all industries with an increase in retail sales as well.
This is a private market solution with no government money needed, except to screen the people coming in and issue the visas.
In fact, costly, wasteful and ineffective programs put in place to help the housing market and beleaguered mortgage borrowers could be eliminated.
Many Americans are stuck. Unable to sell their homes they can’t move to accept better job offers. Companies are more reluctant to move to better locations because their employees can’t sell their houses or get enough money out of them to buy a new one.
Retirees that need to move to assisted living can’t sell or get enough of their money out to move to a more suitable place. The assisted living places, which use to have waiting lists, are glutted with vacant units. It just goes on and on.
The VISIT USA bill is that “Game Changer” we need. The World Chamber of Commerce supports its passage as soon as possible.
To learn more about the activities of the World Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta, go here.