Case For Retirement Visa In U.S. May Gain New Traction

Case for retirement visa in United States may gain new traction

By Kevin Brass
The International Herald Tribune (France), November 26, 2008

Estate agents in the United States hope a new administration in Washington D.C. will kick start talks for a retirement visa, the so-called 'silver card' which would allow foreigners to easily retire in the U.S.

'Im encouraged,' said Tony Macaluso, the Florida-based agent championing the visa.

The retirement visa is one of those ideas thats so simple and makes so much sense its amazing that its never been adopted. While countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize present a variety of programs to encourage international pensioners to buy homes, the U.S. offers no simple path for a foreign citizen to retire in places like Florida and California.

Although details still need to be hashed out, a retirement visa would allow foreign citizens of a certain age with a steady pension fund income and a few other verifiable requirements to retire in the U.S. without a hassle.

'There are a lot of people around the world who would love to enjoy their golden years in the U.S. and we dont have a way for them to do it,' said Macaluso, who served as the 2008 international operations chairman for the National Association of Realtors and now fills a similar role with the Florida Association Realtors.

However, its been difficult to gain traction for the concept in the midst of the emotional and often acrimonious debate over immigration in the U.S. No one was eager to jump on a concept that would encourage immigration, even though, by definition, pensioners would be unlikely to pose a national security risk, unless there is a wave of geriatric terrorists.

But times have changed, in many ways. The financial crisis may change the tenor of the debate.

'This is not an immigration proposal; its an economic proposal,' Macaluso said.

A recent study commissioned by NAR found 7.5 percent of foreign citizens polled expressed an interest in retiring in the unassuming number that could translate to millions of potential buyers, Macaluso says. That could provide a much-needed boost for markets like Florida, California and Colorado.

'If this was in place by now, a lot of inventory would be absorbed and prices would be strengthened because we would have an active market,' Macaluso said.

Macaluso senses a new enthusiasm for crafting legislation for Congress to consider, something that hasnt happened yet. With other issues higher on the agenda, the NAR has been slow to move on the measure, but he believes the Florida group will find a legislator willing to carry the measure.

'A lot of members [in Florida] are impatient,' Macaluso said.