US floats property visa deal

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A bill working its way through the US Senate would offer a residence visa to foreigners who spend at least $500,000 (Dh1.8mn) on property.

Backers hope the bill will stimulate sales to overseas buyers, who are playing an increasingly important role in the US property market. Foreign citizens spent $82 billion on property in the US in the year ended March 31, compared to $66 billion the previous year, according to the National Association of Realtors

Despite the recent crash, US property is still seen as a haven for international investors, who are taking advantage of depressed prices. In some neighbourhoods of Miami international investors account for more than 50 per cent of sales.

Although the US is notoriously restrictive in its visa policies, there are options already available for investors. The most popular is the EB5 program, which offers investors a track to a visa if they invest in designated projects that create jobs.

The new bill would remove many of the restrictions and create a simple process for wealthy buyers, including retirees, to move to the US. The purchase would have to be in cash and the buyer wouldn't be allowed to work in the country, unless they had a normal work visa, under terms of the proposal.

Meanwhile there is still no word on the move to extend visas for property buyers in the UAE, which was announced in June.