The best chance the English owners of Sugartree Inn have of getting the green cards they need to stay in the United States is to sell their Warren B & B for enough money to buy a green card through the federal government's EB5 program.
Graham Hewison and Maxine Longmuir are living and working in the States
on a five-year extension of a visa that expires in December of 2013.
Because Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) rules have
changed, they don't expect their visas will be renewed when the time
To prepare for that, they have put their inn on the market in preparation for having to leave, or alternately, being able to participate in the EB5 program whereby foreign investors receive residency status for investing in projects in this country.
That program provides visas for foreign investors who provide funds for projects in exchange for permanent residency (green card) status. The program requires that investors provide $500,000 and then receive residency status for themselves and their families. (Part of Sugarbush's current construction project at Lincoln Peak is funded through the EB-5 visa program.)
Hewison and Longmuir are British. They purchased the Sugartree Inn in 2004 and were living and working here under their first visa. Two and a half years ago, in December, they were granted a five-year visa extension.
"Since we qualified for our first visas and the extension, the criteria has changed to the point where we will not satisfy them because our business does not employ enough people. The magic number is 10 employees and we don't get to count ourselves," Hewison said.
"Our anticipation is based on the experiences of other people we know in similar situations," he explained.
"We are pretty much resigned to the fact that if we were to apply, we'd be turned down. There are a lot of examples of people we've known who've been in same situation as us. The temptation would be for us to try and get ahead of the game and put in now to renew our application, but we also know of examples of other Brits who have done that and have been turned down and then had the remainder of their visas remanded," he continued.
Hewison said he was aware of local lobbying efforts on their behalf and said he and Longmuir were very appreciative and humbled by that response. He also said that, short of changing INS policy, he was not hopeful that their visas would be renewed.
"I really think the value in the lobbying is to raise the issue for the next people to be in this situation. Maxine and I are pretty resigned to the fact that when our time is up, it's up. We're already planning for that, but it's going to break our hearts. The thought of showing people around our home to sell it when we don't want to is going to kill us. But we came into this with our eyes open, knowing there would be a definite endpoint without residency status. It appears to have gone the other way," he said.
"We're philosophical about it, but if waving the flag about it can improve things for other people, we'd be very happy for them," he added.
"The only way forward is the 'buy a green card' program and people are shocked by how that works. If only we'd known about this years ago before we bought the inn, we'd have gone that way. Our plan might be, if the timing works, to place the inn on the market and when it sells, buy the green cards through the EB5 program," he concluded.