2014

Real Estate Roundtable Urges Pro-Growth Immigration Reform With Flexible Visa Caps

Senate Bill a Positive Proposal that Needs to Attract and Retain Foreign Travelers, Entrepreneurs and Students in the Race for Global Talent

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Real Estate Roundtable views the bipartisan immigration reform bill unveiled by the Senate "Gang of Eight" (S. 744) as a generally positive proposal that will strengthen the economy, help the real estate sector become more globally competitive and contribute to national security.  Yet, The Roundtable also emphasizes that any congressional overhaul of immigration policy needs to ensure visa caps retain flexibility and not be arbitrarily imposed – otherwise, an inflexible approach could restrain foreign investment and lead to labor shortages in the construction sector. 

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120215/DC54467)

"We strongly support immigration reform, and the bipartisan direction of the Gang of Eight," Roundtable President and CEO, Jeffrey D. DeBoer, said of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.  "Immigration overhaul will affect the full spectrum of real estate – commercial and residential development, property investment and ownership, and construction and hiring practices.  It is imperative for Congress to act with a deft touch to ensure that visa reforms are pro-growth, and allow our nation to sprint out of the starting gate in the increasingly competitive global race for talent and resources.

"One of the biggest barriers that impedes growth in the real estate industry and the national economy is access to capital and resources – both human and financial," DeBoer stated.  "No matter where Roundtable members and their projects are located, at home or abroad, they need the best people on the ground and financial investments to transform conceptual business plans into job-creating projects.

"Immigration reform can be a major catalyst to economic recovery, if it is smart and surgical," DeBoer continued.  "As the Senate proposal moves through the legislative process, The Roundtable looks forward to offering ideas that make the bill even better – by attracting foreign investment to the U.S., capitalizing on the diversity that is our country's proud legacy, and confirming America's position as the global magnet for the world's most talented and hardest-working people."

The Gang of Eight's current proposal has positive implications for real estate, and some negative ones. From the Roundtable's perspective:

  • Updating and streamlining the visa process via the JOLT Act will attract more international business and vacation travelers to the U.S., leading to economic growth and bolstering the hospitality real estate sector.
    The Roundtable supports S. 744's provisions to boost the number of global long-haul travelers coming to the U.S., to increase travel and tourism jobs and revenue in real estate's hospitality sector.  By incorporating stand-alone legislation known as the Jobs Originating Through Launching Travel ("JOLT") Act, the Senate bill would adopt JOLT's provisions to modernize and expand the Visa Waiver Program.  These provisions will also improve visa processing to capture visitors from key markets like China and Brazil – who will simply travel elsewhere on vacation or for business meetings if barriers continue to block their travel to the U.S. 
  • Visa reform to attract immigrant investors and entrepreneurs is critical, but caps must be sufficient. 
    International investment is a growing and potent force in real estate, acting as a significant contributor to U.S. property values in recent years.  The Roundtable supports S. 744's provisions to make the EB-5 program permanent and attract foreign investment to the U.S. to improve our infrastructure and communities.  Also, The Roundtable supports the bill's provisions that would encourage small-business and high-tech start-ups through a new visa platform for immigrant entrepreneurs that would emulate the programs of other nations. However, Congress should ensure that the visa caps allowed for immigrant investors and entrepreneurs are sufficiently ample to spur jobs creation in American-based projects and companies.
  • The construction sector must not be singled-out with arbitrary and unworkable visa caps for lower wage workers.   
    The Roundtable has major concerns with an arbitrary cap on construction workers eligible for so-called "W visas" proposed by S. 744.  At a time when the construction sector needs ample room to increase jobs, an inflexible 15,000 per year limit on "W visas" for a broad swath of laborers – e.g., drywall installers, stucco masons, painters, carpet installers – will prove unworkable and create labor shortages.  The construction sector must not be isolated from these key workforce resources, and should receive the same treatment as other sectors that benefit from visa availability that fluctuates as market conditions change.
  • Retain the talent provided by STEM students and DREAMers. 
    We must stop the cycle of educating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics ("STEM") students in our universities, only to see them return to their home countries after they earn their degrees.  The Roundtable supports S. 744's proposals to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas for STEM students who graduate from U.S. colleges with advanced degrees.  The Roundtable also applauds S. 744 for addressing undocumented students who enter the country as children ("DREAM-ers") and putting them on a quicker path to citizenship, regardless of their current age. 

For more information about The Real Estate Roundtable and our pro-growth policy agenda, visit www.rer.org.

SOURCE Real Estate Roundtable



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