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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

B-4 Retirement Visa--an idea whose time has come?

Back in the 1990's, every session of Congress would find a certain Florida Representative, Bill McCollum, pushing for a retirement visa.  To receive this renewable visa the applicant would have to be from an approved list of countries, show that they had passive income sufficient to meet their financial needs, show proof of health insurance, and own a residence in the United States.  For a variety of reasons, this effort was never fully adopted by the mainstream immigration advocate community and never really got off the ground.  Recently, the issue resurfaced in the Huffington Post.  With the current economic situation and particularly the severely depressed real estate market in the once thriving sun belt it may be time to dust off this proposal and give it the consideration it deserves.

I would propose a non-immigrant visa that would be good for three years.  It could be renewed indefinitely in the same way an E non-immigrant visa is renewable.  The applicant or their spouse must be at least 50 years old, and clear the same background checks that someone would need when they are applying for permanent residence.  The applicant or their dependents would not be able to be employed, but could legally go to school (paying non-resident tuition).  They would not be eligible for any public benefits (social security, welfare, food stamps, etc.).  They would have to demonstrate proof that they have medical insurance, passive income in an amount at least 300% of the poverty level (approximately $45,000 annually for a married couple).  The applicant would have to demonstrate that they have at least $250,000 in equity in a residence located in the United States that they intend to occupy.  Of course, aliens with criminal records or other legally undesirable characteristics would not be approved.

It is not difficult to imagine what such a visa would do to the devastated housing market in such hard hit places as Las Vegas or Miami.  New home buyers would also need to purchase furniture and fixtures, hire maintenance workers, purchase an insured automobile, and so forth.  We can immediately create more good jobs, rescue the housing markets and turn around the economies of some of the areas hardest hit by the current recession, and in doing so demonstrate the benefits of a thoughtful immigration policy--something that has been sadly lacking in this country for many years. 

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