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Sens. Mike Lee and Charles Schumer pitch immigration reform to boost U.S. travel, housing investment

WASHINGTON — A Republican Utah senator and Democratic senator from New York introduced an immigration reform bill Thursday aimed at encouraging foreign travel and housing investment in the U.S.

Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Charles Schumer, D-New York, say the legislation would reduce barriers for Canadian and Chinese visitors, expedite priority visa applications, use videoconferencing to screen foreign nationals and change visa procedures for U.S. allies fighting al Qaeda. It would also provide a three-year visa for foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in residential real estate, including half for a home in which they must live for six months a year.

“This bill supports a free market method for increasing demand for housing at a time when so many working-class Americans are underwater on their homes, are desperate for prices to rise again, and big-government programs have failed to work," Lee said in a statement.

Schumer said the proposal isn't a cure-all for the over-stocked housing market, but could be a solution to the housing crisis "that won't cost the government a nickel."

“This concept has the potential to lift demand for the nation’s excess homes," he said.

The housing investment would not provide a pathway to citizenship, the senators said. Applicants would be subject to criminal and national security background checks and would not be able to receive government benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Schumer and Lee dubbed the legislation the Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act or VISIT-USA act. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and the U.S. Olympic Committee have endorsed the bill, according to Lee and Schumer.

Dennis Romboy

Twitter: dennisromboy