B-4 Retiree Visas

09/19/2011 06:34 pm ET | Updated Nov 19, 2011

I recently interviewed Harry DeMell, an immigration lawyer and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, who believes it would be beneficial to extend visitor visa benefits to foreign retirees wishing to reside in the United States.

Schupak: Harry. Tell me about your idea for a retiree visa.

DeMell: It would be a good idea for congress to extend visitor visa benefits to foreign retirees wishing to reside in the United States. They could come here, rent or buy property, spend money and thereby help the economy. I would call it a B-4 visa.

Schupak: Didn't we once have such a visa?

DeMell: That's why I call it B-4 like 'before'. At one time there was something called the non-preference visa. The old visas were for permanent green cards and that program ended thirty-five years ago. I am suggesting a temporary-visitor-like category but with some guarantee that it will continue long enough to encourage people to take advantage of it without fear that they can be suddenly asked to leave.

Schupak: Why would this be good for America?

DeMell: Some Americans worry about jobs. Some worry about the real estate market. Some worry about funding our health care system. Here we have an idea that can benefit America in all these areas.

Schupak: It doesn't sound like it would solve any of these problems.

DeMell: These retiree visa holders would be a net asset for our economy since they would be bringing money into the United States at a time when our balance of payments is tilted strongly against us.

Our health care system would also benefit since we would have to require that each visa holder have American health insurance. The extra money paid into the system would result in a net inflow at a time when every clarification out of Washington in the area of health care is economically troubling.

Our real estate situation would benefit since each retiree would need a place to live. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that these thousands of retirees would rent or buy thousands of apartments mostly in areas where the real estate market is weakest such as southern Florida and Las Vegas.

None of these ideas is a game changer for the American economy, but just as many small businesses add up to many jobs and a benefit for America so would this idea qualify as a significant step in the right direction for our economic recovery. It would cost us nothing to implement. If congress was smart enough to think of a few ideas like this we would certainly see an impact. You know the saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Schupak: Wouldn't these people want to stay permanently?

DeMell: Some would, but that is not what I am proposing. It would make no sense to issue immigrant visas (green cards) to retirees. We would not want to make this a magnet for people wishing to circumvent the usual procedures and apply solely to assist family who might not otherwise qualify for residence here. A temporary, non-immigrant visa is enough here.

Schupak: So are you saying that retirees can never get green cards?

DeMell: No. Retirees, who enter on these visas, might qualify for green cards in other ways and wait their turn like anyone else. They might later be sponsored by family or make investments that might qualify them for visas. This would be no different that other visitor visa holders but for our purposes this should be limited to a non-immigrant visa category.

Schupak: Do other countries issue these visas?

DeMell: Yes! Costa Rica, Australia, the Philippines, and Mexico just to name a few. It brings money and jobs to their countries.

Schupak: Don't we have these visas now?

DeMell: Not really. We have a visitor visa that's good for six months at a time. If used too much the visa holder can be refused entry. No one can make any long-term plans based on the existing system.

Schupak: How would these visas be issued?

DeMell: This retirement non-immigrant visa could cover people who are over sixty years old and their spouses. It might require proof of American medical insurance and require that B-4 visa holders leave the United States for no less than two months every calendar year. It could specify that time in the United States under this visa would not inure towards time for cancellation of removal.

These visa holders would not be able to work in the United States and would have to document significant financial means. They could not compete with Americans for jobs. Just the opposite: they would create jobs.

With an increasingly aged population worldwide the United States might be a magnet for wealthy seniors to come, enjoy life here, spend their money on housing, restaurants, golf courses and a host of other items that will create commerce and hence jobs in the United States.

Andy Schupak is President of