This article discusses a popular topic among many, and that is can you buy a house and get a green card? Clients and potential clients of US immigration law firms often ask about obtaining a green card (permanent residency in the United States) through the purchase of a house or some other real estate, for example purchasing a residential property in Florida.
Oftentimes, people hear from their friends, acquaintances or other family members that if you buy a house in the United States, then you get a green card. However, this is erroneous information and the answer is no, you cannot buy a house in the United States or some other property in Florida and get a green card.
The reality is that at present, the United States government does not have a program that allows foreign citizens to obtain a permanent residency status (green card) solely through the purchase of a house or other real estate. Nevertheless, investing in real estate property could be part of the process of obtaining a green card through investment but there is far more to it than simply buying a house or an apartment in the US.
Purchasing real estate in the US can be an attractive investment proposition. Property prices have been steadily rising, the property can be rented to generate income, and private property rights are well protected. For non-US investors from developing countries, a US real estate purchase represents a hedge against possible inflation and political instability in their home country.
Some of the risks of investing in US real estate stem from overconfidence on part of the non-US investor, including sometimes skipping important inspections before closing the deal, not knowing the local market, or underestimating maintenance and management costs that are usually a lot lower in developing countries.
After weighing the benefits and risks of investing in real estate in the United States, it is time to examine how it can be used as a part of a more comprehensive plan to obtain a green card or in other words become a permanent resident.
Buy a House Get a Green Card Program
The program that currently exists and allows foreign investors to obtain a green card is called EB-5 Investor Program. For one to obtain a green card through the EB-5 visa, he or she must invest in a US business a minimum of $1,050,000 or $800,000 if in a rural area or an area with high unemployment and must create a minimum of 10 full-time permanent jobs. The program allows for a direct investment in a new business that is managed by the investor, or a passive investment made through a regional center.
In the context of a direct investment in a US business, an overseas investor cannot use an investment made in residential property. That is so because the EB-5 visa program requires the investment be made in a business that will create 10 full-time jobs, and a house, even if rented out or listed on Airbnb, is still considered a passive investment.
However, one could use the purchase of a commercial property in the United States as part of the investment in a new US business and qualify for a green card with the purchase of real estate property. For example, an investor that wishes to obtain a green card through the EB-5 visa program has decided to invest in a car wash business in Miami, Florida. The investor can decide to buy the property on which the car wash business is located and use it to get a green card.
In this situation the decision to purchase the real estate instead of leasing it is a business decision and the money used to purchase property can be counted toward the investment for the purpose of the EB-5 visa program. Here it is important that the applicant meets the other requirements of the EB-5 visa program, including the requirement to create 10 full-time permanent jobs. When a mortgage is used to purchase the commercial property, the unpaid portion of the loan will not count as an investment for EB-5 visa purposes.
A non-US investor who wishes to obtain a green card through investment also has the option to make a passive investment in a regional center. This way, one can invest in real estate projects through a regional center and get a green card.
A regional center is an economic unit, which can be either public or private, that is involved with promoting economic growth in the United States. Each regional center has to be designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and has well-defined geographic area.
Regional centers do not invest directly into projects. Instead, a regional center will set up an investment fund for the benefit of the EB-5 investors, and then this fund will then loan the funds to a US project. The project then uses the money loaned by the fund to build or develop the US project, and to create the jobs for US workers.
Regional centers often invest in real estate and recruit investors for large real estate development projects, including both commercial property and residential. Investing in real estate projects through a regional center, mitigates a lot of the risks that an overseas investor faces when buying a US property and is the only way to invest in residential property while using the investment for the purpose of becoming a green card holder or in other words a permanent resident of the United States. To learn more about the EB-5 green card, visit our EB-5 visa page.
In the past there have been proposals to allow foreign investors who purchase a US home to receive a 3-year homeowner visa for the United States. More specifically, the proposal was made by US senators Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, and Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, in 2011. At the time the US housing market was still recovering from the 2008 economic crisis, demand was weak, and home prices were still falling. The idea was that foreign buyers can help bail out the US real estate market and also boosts tax revenue by becoming US residents for tax purposes. However, the US real estate market started to recover, and the proposal never made it into law. At present, similar proposals are very unlikely given the affordability issues faced by US consumers due to years of underinvestment in new construction.
If you are contemplating to buy property or to make a real estate investment to get a green card, contact our experienced immigration lawyers in Miami, Florida USA or book a consultation with our EB-5 visa lawyers before making any rush decisions.
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers