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Florida restricts Chinese nationals without US green cards from purchasing property

Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis (Photo: X/@GovronDeSantis)

Florida signed a law restricting Chinese nationals without US green cards from purchasing property in the state leaving them fuming over the law, CNN reported.

The law underscores the heightened tensions between the two biggest economies in the world in a US presidential election year, the rules have fostered uneasiness and confusion among ethnic Chinese people living in the state. Some say the law has damaged their businesses, while others say they are considering abandoning Florida altogether.

Bian, a 31-year-old software engineer who has lived in the US for 12 years, is a recipient of an H-1B visa, which allows companies to employ foreign workers was told that this decision might get him prison time.

“That was really shocking to me. It’s just purchasing property,” Bian, who is originally from Nanjing, China, said. “Once I learned that, I didn’t even bother to look anymore.”

Ever since Florida Senate Bill 264 went into effect on July 1, 2023, Chinese citizens without green cards face a felony charge and possible prison time if they purchase property in the state. Sellers and real estate agents can also be found liable under the law, reported CNN.

Bian said he has recently started reconsidering his life in Florida, and he isn’t alone. The law specifically bans the “purchase or acquisition of real property” by “any person who is domiciled in the People’s Republic of China and who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States.” But the term “domiciled” isn’t fully defined in the law’s language.

“We feel like we’re different from everyone else because of this type of law,” said Echo King, a US citizen who was born in China and is president of the Florida Asian American Justice Alliance. “We feel like we’re not welcome.”

Susan Li, a 47-year-old small business owner in Orlando, Florida, who holds a green card, said she “really felt the discrimination” when she learned about the bill.

Like Bian, Li had been searching for a new home when the law passed. Despite the fact that she is a legal resident of the US, her family decided to halt their housing search for fear of potential legal complications.

Under SB 264, citizens of Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria are prohibited from buying property within 10 miles of any “military installation or critical infrastructure facility” in Florida.

For Chinese citizens without the permanent right to live in the US, specifically, the law goes a step further, barring the group from purchasing any property in the state, as per CNN.

“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” DeSantis said in a statement last year.

The law is currently being challenged in court, but several other states are considering similar laws.

The controversial law comes at a time when relations between the US and China have grown increasingly tense.

Last year, fears of the Chinese government spying in the US reached a fever pitch after a Chinese surveillance balloon was discovered over Montana and eventually shot down by the US.

In addition to allegations that Chinese-owned apps like TikTok are used for spying (which TikTok denies), US lawmakers have increasingly warned that Chinese purchases of agricultural land pose a national security threat.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, China owns 349,442 acres of agricultural and non-agricultural land in the US, representing slightly less than 1 per cent of all foreign-held land in the US.