U.S. immigration regulations and procedures can be complex and rules change frequently. As a real estate practitioner, even if you focus on global real estate, you are not expected to, nor should you attempt, to play the role of an immigration attorney. However, foreign real estate investors want (and need) to know how U.S. visa regulations may impact access to their properties. The U.S. government places few restrictions on ownership of real estate by foreign individuals and companies, making it fairly easy for international investors to purchase U.S. properties. But before a foreign buyer makes a purchase, they need to understand that their access to the property may be limited in terms of permissible entry and length of stay. The type of visa a foreigner has been issued can make an enormous difference.
Real Estate professionals should not offer advice about immigration and visa matters; however, they should be aware of visa regulations. General knowledge of visa matters can help the real estate professional alert foreign buyers and sellers so that they can seek expert advice and make informed decisions. Below is information regarding different visa types. If you are working with global clients, this information should be on your radar.
Visa Waiver ProgramThe Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, for stays of 90 days or less for tourism or business. Those who wish to stay longer need to apply for a visa. It is important to note that Canadian citizens do not fall under VWP. They may stay in the U.S. for up to six months.
The following are examples of activities permitted while in the United States on the VWP.