NEW YORK NEW YORK: Proposal for two-way US, Barbados deal
Two United States senators and a Barbados diplomat in Washington share a sensible idea.
Barbados’ Ambassador in Washington, John Beale, has proposed that Barbados remove bureaucratic and other road blocks that make it difficult for foreign investors or people with considerable skill to settle in the country, establish new enterprises or maintain existing ones that create jobs and pay taxes. What he didn’t suggest was that Barbados should sell its citizenship to the highest bidder.
Across town in America’s capital, Senators Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and Mike Lee, a Republican, were going a step further by introducing proposed legislation that would, if enacted into law put applications for American green cards from foreign business people on a fast track, provided they bought and lived in properties in the United States valued at least USD$500 000 (BDS$1 000 000).
The key stipulation would be that the immigrants live in their new homes for at least 180 days annually and pay taxes. Called “Visit USA Act,” the proposed law would appeal to foreign retirees.
That bit of legislation would supplement an existing initiative law, the Immigrant Investor Programme, often called the EB-5, which enables foreigners with at least US$1 million to spend on a business enterprise to live and work in the United States without having to worry that immigration agents would knock on their doors in the dead of night with a deportation order in hand.
When that law was first enacted in 1990, it was loaded with restrictions, such as the enterprise should have an export component; and if it failed in its first two years of existence, the immigrant owners would lose their permanent residency status. Quite sensibly, most of the stipulations were removed.
In 2010, the US gave EB-5 visas or green cards to almost 2 500 immigrants who invested or started a variety of businesses across the country, and if the Obama Administration should get its way that number would skyrocket to 10 000 every year, thus paving the way for billions of dollars in investment in bridges, harbors, airports, shops, office buildings and other ventures.
Beale’s idea doesn’t aim for such lofty goals. It seeks, quite correctly, to improve the current immigration system that’s crammed full of bureaucratic roadblocks to residency, that waste time and prevent some foreign executives in the financial services sector, for example, from having the peace of mind of knowing where they stand.
Many of them, Beale argued, simply want to remain in Barbados, continue to raise their families in comfort, contribute to the economy and pay taxes. A revamped system would also add to the island’s marketing thrust, much like Mauritius which boasts internationally that it processes similar immigration applications from foreign business owners in three days. In Barbados’ case the scrutiny should be thorough but not obstructionist. Crooks need not apply.
In the current global climate, which is expected to continue for at least another three years, Barbados should be in a position to compete for foreign investment not simply with the U.S. and Mauritius, but also with Canada which already has a similar programme.