American real estate agents say there's a surefire way to help the country's plummeting real estate market: Let foreigners retire here after they buy.
Miami agent Tony Macaluso is leading the charge to create a special new "Silver Card visa" that would ease restrictions on older immigrants — but the National Association of Realtors, Congress and the State Department aren't biting just yet.
"This idea would be for someone who is over 50, who is retired, who has proof of income, who is not relying on our health care system or our welfare system," Macaluso told FOX News.
"When they come here it would be on a non-work visa, so they would be retired [and] their wealth that they are earning in another county would be spent here in the United States. And if there is something we could clearly use is more money coming into the country," he cotinued.
Foreign nationals who no longer work, but desire to spend their golden years in the United States can currently buy property here — and many do.
But most of them have only tourist visas and must leave the country every six months and wait a few months more before they can re-enter the United States.
"I don't want to leave," said French citizen Estelle Nezel, who owns property but lives in the U.S. on a tourist visa. "I just want to stay here."
Other countries have realized the economic value of foreigners and the retirement capital flowing in to their nations.
Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica all encourage wealthy retirees to live in their respective countries with special visas, and even offer tax incentives. Partly because of this, an estimated 1 million Americans have retired to Mexico, 65,000 to Panama and another 35,000 to Costa Rica.
Nezel says she's an example as to why it makes sense.
"If I stay here, I rent a car, I go shopping, I spend money. I'm not taking anything from America. On the contrary, I'm just giving," she said.
While the National Association of Realtors has studied the "Silver Card" idea, it has yet to take a stand on it. The U.S. State Department, which issues more than 80 different types of visas, doesn't comment on proposals before they're mandated by Congress.
In the meantime, while Macaluso and other real estate agents struggle to find home buyers in dire economic times, they continue to work to persuade anyone who will listen of the advantages of a "silver card visa" for the United States.
"We need to step up to the plate saying, 'This is a really great place to be. We have a fine country we would like you to share. We would love you to come and spend your retirement funds here within our borders,'" Macaluso said.
Phil Keating joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in March 2004 and currently serves as FNC's Miami-based correspondent.