Want a green card in Miami? Try buying real estate

As wealthy foreign nationals increasingly flock to South Florida to buy distressed real estate, some are seeking an added return on their investment: a green card.

Local immigration attorneys say a growing number of Latin American and European clients are applying for investor visas, which in some cases lay down a fast track to residency and eventually citizenship. Others offer a chance to live and work in the country indefinitely.

As the region's real estate market continues to buckle under unsold properties, widespread foreclosures and failed condo projects, new interest in investor visas is helping whet the already hearty appetite of foreign nationals being drawn to the market by steep bargains.

The visa opportunity isn't for someone buying a single condo: a significant invesestment is required.

``Clients are coming to us primarily because of the economic opportunity they see in the market,'' said Randall Sidlosca, an immigration lawyer with Fowler, White & Burnett's Miami office. ``It's mind-boggling to see the amount of interest. . . . It's rather good news. It could mean the market will turn around faster than in other parts of the state.''

The purpose of these visas, which have been around for more than two decades, is to offer immigrants the opportunity to come and create jobs, rather than those who come as a result of family relationships and may do little to stimulate the economy, said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which promotes immigration controls.

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