US 'house-for-visa' bill sparks discussion, criticism in China

Updated: 2011-10-22 09:35

By Wang Yan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A bill unveiled by two US senators on Friday aiming to woo foreign homebuyers with residential visas drew mixed reactions in China, with some showing interest and others doubting its feasibility.

The proposal, crafted by Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and Republican Senator Mike Lee, would allow Chinese nationals, who are currently required to apply for a new US visa every year, to seek five-year, multiple-entry visitor visas, according to AFP.

The average Chinese visitor to the United States spends $6,000, the lawmakers said in a statement.

With the US housing market still in a slump four years after the subprime mortgage crisis, the bill would provide an unprecedented three-year residential visa for foreign nationals who invest $500,000 in a US home.

At least $250,000 must go to a primary residence in which the buyer will live for at least 180 days out of the year "while paying taxes to the US", the statement said.

With news of the bill appearing on some websites in China on Friday, the prospect of getting US visas for investing in a house worth $500,000 has sparked discussion among Chinese Internet users, partially due to surging house prices in China in recent years.

The market price of an average apartment in central areas of major Chinese cities often exceeds the amount.

A Chinese report on Netease, one of the portal sites in China, received more than 40,000 comments, with some of them eagerly discussing the prospect of residing in the United States at the cost of $500,000.

But many pointed out that foreigners with residence visas cannot work in the US under current immigration rules.

"The residence visa is not a green card," an Internet user named "Shirley_CPM" said on, a popular micro-blogging site in China. "Since you cannot work, study, start a company, or have any social benefits, and have to stay in the US for a full six months, what is the use for that?"

Other micro-bloggers said the likelihood of the bill being adopted is low, as the conditions are different in various states, and the bill will have a huge effect on immigrant investment regulations.

A micro-blogger named "Shizifeiyang" said US politicians are "smart" for introducing the bill, as it will not cause an influx of labor to compete with US nationals for jobs, and in addition to stimulating the real estate sector, it will also boost consumption, as the people residing in the US will need to purchase daily necessities.

Xiao Lian, a fellow of the US Economy Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the bill is nothing new and will not become a major issue. The US already has laws that regulate how immigrants can invest, he said.

"There are also difficulties in implementing it, since the issue involves a series of problems, such as homeland security in the US," he added.

AFP contributed to this story.