Florida Realtor April 2014 : Page 24

wOrking with gLObaL buyers IMMIgRATIOn SOLUTIOnS 3 Visa Options Explained Educate yourself on the different visa options for international customers. by mattHeW t. Galati m any international buyers have a concern beyond a successful closing: obtaining an immigration status that allows them to live in the United states for more than the six months per year that visitors can usually remain. The immigration laws do not provide for a homebuyer visa. Most immigra-tion paths require sponsorship by a family member or an employer. for many, especially those approach-ing retirement, these routes are not viable. Alternatively, investment in the United states can be a solu-tion for either a long-term visa or a green card. here are some popular options: 1. EB-5 Visa. One popular option to obtain a green card is through the EB-5 program. EB-5 immigrant-investors are required to invest a minimum of $500,000 or $1 million, depending on geography, into a U.s. business. The business must create at least 10 jobs for U.s. workers. immigrant-investors may manage their businesses and hire work-ers directly, but need not do so. Approximately 90 percent of EB-5 immigration is through govern-ment-approved regional centers. These entities serve to aggregate EB-5 qualifying investments to fund large, multimillion-dollar projects and manage those projects there-after. investors are generally limited to advisory roles, providing them more freedom. With a green card, investors and their families may work (or not work) and live any-where in the United states. There are some drawbacks. Those with green cards are subject to worldwide income taxation and usually must live permanently in the United states. 2. Treaty Investor Visa (E-2). for some, obtaining a nonim-migrant (temporary) visa is a better option. A Treaty investor Visa (E-2) permits one to start a business and live in the United states year-round. The investor may work in the business or hire others to manage it. There is no threshold investment amount or quantified minimum job creation. The investment must be substan-tial relative to startup costs, and the business must be capable of generating nonmarginal prof-its. This temporary visa can be extended indefinitely for as long as the business is operating. E-2 spouses can work, and children can attend schools. however, E-2 availability requires that there be a treaty between the United states and the investor’s country of nationality, whereas EB-5 is universal. Most European coun-tries have treaties, but many emerging markets (e.g., China and india) do not. 3. Temporary Visitor Visa (B-2). finally, there is always the option of owning a home in Temporary Visitor Visa (B-2) status. With six-month admissions, this may be the best option for those buying a seasonal home. however, visi-tors do not have work authoriza-tion, nor may children enroll in school. Other practical issues, such as obtaining a U.s. driver’s license, can be difficult. Navigating the immigration system for buyers can be tricky, and it is always helpful to partner with an immigration lawyer who can advise on status issues. Matthew T. Galati is an associ-ate attorney with immigration law firm Klasko, Rulon, Stock & Seltzer LLP in Philadelphia. My international customer’s property is selling for a loss. Can’t we just ignore the FIrpTa [Foreign Investment in real property Tax act] withholding altogether so we don’t delay the closing? Absolutely not. The applicable exception to withholding under FIRPTA is depen-dent on your foreign seller’s obtaining a qualifying statement from the IRS that he is either exempt from tax or entitled to a reduced withholding amount. There are proper procedures for holding funds in escrow pending receipt of the IRS statement, assuming that an applica-tion to the IRS has already been made. Simply ignoring FIRPTA withholding altogether will result in the withholding agent’s being held liable. 4. 5. Can’t my international customer just pay for his U.S. resident child’s real estate purchase? No, not if he wants to avoid federal gift tax. If the child has already signed a binding contract to buy the property, the (continued on page 35) Take Videos 5 Florida Realtors ® Coco Waldenmayer: “Capture International buyers and Shepherd Their Transactions” help your international customers be confident and successful in their pursuit of florida homeownership. for starters, be ready to explain six offer-to-contract principles that are essential elements of the buying and selling process. The more they know, the more you can help ensure the sale. Find it at floridareal-tors.org/take5 24 FLORIDA REALTOR April 2014

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