Obama's New Visa Law Seen Helping Chinese Buy U.S. Real Estate

A new visa rule for Chinese students and tourists will make it easier for China home buyers to continue their trend of buying American real estate, Shanghai based real estate company Juwai said on Friday.

“The new five-year student visas could have a bigger impact than the new 10-year tourist and business visas. The inquiries we are receiving are two to one about the student visas, over the tourist and business visa,” says Simon Henry, CEO of Juwai, a web-based company that connects Chinese buyers with foreign sellers of real estate.

The visa deal was agreed upon this week during President Obama’s visit to Beijing for the APEC conference, where CEOs and presidents of Asia-Pacific countries discuss economic integration.  In the deal, short-term business and tourist visas were extended out to 10 years instead of one, and student and exchange visas are now good for five years instead of one.  The rules went into effect on Wednesday.

“Not only will this facilitate trade and investment flows, but it will also remove a constant, low-level irritant felt by executives in both countries,” says John Frisbie, president of the U.S. China Business Council.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said in a statement that the new rules “will strengthen our ever-broadening economic and people-to-people ties.”

Prior to this agreement, Chinese citizens had to renew their American business, tourist, and student visas annually and the same applied to American travelers visiting China. With the help of this change, up to 7.3 million Chinese visitors – more than any other country except Canada and Mexico – are projected to visit the United States in 2021, contributing roughly $85 billion per year to the U.S. economy and supporting 440,000 American jobs, Pritzker said.  According to the White House, 1.8 million Chinese tourists visited the U.S. in 2013, generating $21.1 billion to the U.S. economy.

Some housing markets, however, are seen benefiting greatly from the China house hunter niche, particularly those in California and New York City, where there are large Chinese speaking communities, good schools, and attractive, brag-worthy real estate.

On the visa front, the new rules make it much easier for Chinese students to study at U.S. schools, including K-12. This will entice many Chinese executives to relocate or send their children to American colleges.

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