Foreigners might get green cards with flat purchases

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Foreigners might get green cards with flat purchases

The government is considering a plan to give green cards to foreigners who buy empty apartments or houses worth more than 500 million won ($ 481,235)anywhere in the country, Land Minister Suh Seoung-hwan said yesterday.

The minister proposed expanding the current real estate investment immigration system that is restricted to five free economic zones and leisure towns: Incheon, Busan, Yeosu, Jeju and Pyeongchang. In Busan, the Haeundae Tourism Resort and East Busan Tourism Complex are part of the program. In Incheon, three districts - Yeongjong, Songdo and Cheongna - are offering visas to foreign real estate investors.

“The Land Ministry will talk about measures to improve the current real estate immigration system by including unsold houses across the country in discussion with the Industry Ministry and free economic zone authorities,” the minister said at a meeting with officials of the Korea Housing Association in Yeouido, western Seoul.

Suh’s remarks were in line with the government’s efforts to remove unnecessary regulations that inhibit investment and economic growth, and to revive the moribund real estate market.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the 10 regulations that are most seriously affecting the residential construction industry.

Under the current restricted system, foreigners who buy properties for leisure purposes, such as condominiums in resorts or villas in golf clubs that are worth more than 500 million won in the five designated regions are given F-2 visas.

If they maintain that status for five years, they are granted F-5 visas, which are the equivalent of permanent residence visas.

In Busan, the minimum investment is 700 million won.

The minister wants the scheme to cover all apartments and houses in the nation that were built but never bought. There are about 61,000 unsold real estate properties at present, according to ministry data.

Considering that an increasing number of Japanese and Chinese are investing in hotels and condos on Jeju Island and in Haeundae, Busan, an expansion of the system is likely a way to stimulate foreign investment.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, foreigners bought 630 billion won worth of such leisure facilities, or 1,006 units, as of December 2013. Most of the investment was made on Jeju.

“The ministry will make constant efforts to eliminate major regulations in a way that businesses can feel with its aim of reducing 30 percent of the total regulations in the fields of construction, infrastructure and transport by 2017,” Suh said.

Foreigners have interest in residences in the free economic zone of Incheon, but the current limit on purchases being in leisure facilities is serving as a hindrance, the minister explained.

Analysts say that if the current limit is lifted, it will help boost the economies of different parts of the country.

“Expanding the system would benefit both foreigners and the Korean property market, which will be a win-win situation,” said an official at the Korea Housing Association.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]


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