RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine

JUL 2018

Real Estate magazine is the industry's leading source for real estate news and information since 1980. Published monthly by RISMedia, Real Estate magazine offers timely and relevant real estate news to the industry's top brokers and agents.

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RISMedia's REAL ESTATE July 2018 15 {Policy Matters} W hile not apparent at first glance, many visa programs sup- port real estate mar- kets across the country. Visa hold- ers purchase property, invest in property, keep other properties in good shape, provide capital for de- velopment and contribute to and stimulate property markets and eco- nomic development. However, these visas face chal- lenges to remain viable: some are linked unfairly to the immigration debate, and, as a result, struggle to remain authorized by Congress; others are plagued by unfavorable media reports and carry with them the scent of corruption; still, others are beset by administrative back- logs and delays. Because of their wide-ranging and positive impacts on real estate, it is in the interest of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to keep these programs authorized and viable, while also advocating for reforms to ensure their transpar- ency and accountability. SEASONAL WORKER VISAS The H-2B Seasonal Worker Visa program allows employers to hire workers to fill temporary (usually six months), non-agricultural jobs in the U.S. However, employers must first exhaust all avenues for hiring domestic workers before using the H-2B program. Resort areas in par- ticular use the H-2B program for temporary jobs such as landscap- ers, lifeguards and wait staff. Legislation to reform the pro- gram has been introduced in Con- gress, but this is one of the pro- grams that's linked to the broader issue of immigration reform. As a result, movement on reforming the program is stalled. NAR supports reforms to the H-2B program that make the visas more transparent and accountable, offer temporary jobs to foreign workers without tak- ing away opportunities from Ameri- cans and reduce regulatory bur- dens on employers. INVESTMENT VISAS Through the EB-5 Investment Visa program, foreign investors are placed on a path to U.S. citizenship in exchange for investing at least $500,000 in a new U.S. business and creating at least 10 jobs. NAR supports this program be- cause, many times, the investments provide capital that promotes eco- nomic development in mixed use and commercial real estate proj- ects. In addition, jobs created through this economic activity also contribute to property ownership. The EB-5 Program expires on Sept. 30, 2018. NAR supports re- form legislation introduced in Con- gress that would more effectively track where the capital comes from, where it goes and whether or not jobs have been created. However, that bill is unlikely to pass prior to Sept. 30, so NAR supports a short- term program extension prior to its expiration. GREEN CARD BACKLOG FOR LEGAL IMMIGRANTS Currently, there's a disconnect be- tween employment-based legal im- migration visas and the number of legal immigrants that are allowed into the U.S. from other countries. While there's no per-country limit to awarding employment-based visas based on skill, there's an arbitrary cap per country for green cards, creating a massive backlog. This backlog grows worse every year. While there isn't a firm count, hundreds of thousands of legal im- migrants with employment-based visas are stuck in this bureaucratic limbo. For example, 300,000 legal immigrants from India may wait for years to obtain a green card. This backlog has a dramatic impact on the national economy, pri- marily through unreal- ized economic activity. Workers with these vi- sas are in the country, but are hesitant to in- vest, purchase proper- ty, create businesses or otherwise engage in longer-term economic activity. There's legislation that would reform this system and provide more resources to resolve the disconnect between legal visas and the green card backlog. How- ever, this legislation has just been introduced and is unlikely to be passed prior to Congress adjourn- ing in November 2018. RE Russell W. Riggs is a senior policy representative for the Environment and Administrative Regulatory Reform. Visa Programs Are Important for Real Estate, but Need Reforms to Stay Viable This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group. by Russell W. Riggs

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