If America is going to sell legal status to immigrant investors – a subject I explored in a recent Backgrounder – then what is the appropriate price?
The U.S. charges $500,000 for a full set of green cards for the entire family. I am not at all sure that this is a good idea.
As noted in the Backgrounder, most English-speaking nations require rather larger investments in return for the visas than does the U.S. The Bahamas, for example, has a de facto minimum of $1.5 million.
The latest news (not included in that Backgrounder) is from the Cayman Islands, the British dependency in the Caribbean where Mitt Romney has apparently stashed a couple of million. There the local government, a Westminister-style parliamentary democracy, has introduced legislation which would set the following standards for the "Certificate of Permanent Residence for Persons of Independent Means":
- an investment of at least $915,000 in U.S. dollars; and
- an annual income of at least $183,600 in U.S. dollars; and
- no work permits for anyone in the family.
In contrast, the U.S. sets the minimum investment at about half the Caymans number ($500,000); has no requirement at all for the investor's annual income, and allows all members of the family to work in the U.S.
For more on the proposed legislation see the report in The Caymanian Compass of January 31. In a political system like that of the Caymans a piece of legislation drafted by the government is highly likely to be passed by the legislature, since the same political party or coalition controls both the executive and the legislative branches. The islands prosper on a combination of tourism and off-shore banking.
Does the Cayman Islands have a more rational immigration policy than the U.S.? Are those policies less generous to wealthy aliens than ours?
I think the answers to both questions is "yes" and, though I would rather think otherwise, I doubt that either of those observations relates to the Romney investment decision.