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Hype Watch: What’s Really Going on With Bitcoin and US Visas?

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM
P. H. Madore
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:56 PM

In 1990, changes were made to US immigration law which allowed foreign investors to get into a sort of express lane for visas. The result was the EB-5 visa  or, as some have portrayed it , a way to “buy your US Visa if you’re wealthy enough.”

In March, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service published a document which mentioned Bitcoin. The document has nothing to do with the government accepting Bitcoin for visa application fees, as some would have you believe. The reason that would be significant is that if the government is willing to accept Bitcoin for fees, the next step is accepting it for tax payments, which equates to full legitimacy as well as a whole new frontier of regulatory problems.

Here is what the document  actually says regarding Bitcoin:

One question regarding source of funds related to the use of Bitcoin to transfer investment funds to the new commercial enterprise. USCIS is currently considering issues involving virtual currency such as Bitcoin. USCIS cannot provide blanket assurances regarding any particular form of transfer, but we will continue to evaluate evidence provided by petitioners to determine whether the relevant statutory and regulatory requirements have been met, including evidence that the funds invested belong to the petitioner, and were acquired, directly and indirectly, by lawful means.

Yet Bitcoin personality Chris DeRose, who influences and reaches wide swaths of the Bitcoin community through his podcasts and other work, said this:

 DeRose also took the opportunity to take shots at Roger Ver, apropos of nothing, saying Ver might be able to buy his citizenship using his preferred currency. This is simply not true. As you can see in the above quote, what the USCIS is considering is whether or not to allow new applicants to fund their businesses with Bitcoin, not the application fees, so if Ver were to reapply for citizenship, any fees would still be denominated in US dollars.

For what it’s worth, USCIS is still considering the matter, but the same old problems arise: can they trust Bitcoin, how do they know the bitcoins don’t break treasury blacklists, and so forth. They are accepting evidence on the matter, so one hopes that people in the right positions make moves to encourage the move. The overall benefit to Bitcoin seems limited, except that new enterprises could get off the ground quicker by being able to get funding from places and investors in regions where currencies are destabilized (which, of course, often prefer the US dollar anyhow).

The federal government is the last entity which will actively accept Bitcoin for things like fees, and it’s hard to imagine a situation in which they would want to accept a competing currency to the one they issue. Just as most US businesses will not accept the Mexican peso or Canadian dollar, there is simply little to no incentive to do as much. The State of New Hampshire once considered accepting Bitcoin for taxes  but the bill was eventually aborted.

The government has full access and a 360 degree view of traditional bank wires, and therefore more control, so it would seem obvious that this measure is unlikely to succeed without so many provisions that it becomes unattractive to those who want it. Pure conjecture, of course, but certainly we must say something when dozens, if not hundreds, of people are currently believing that “this could be big,” which is just pure hype.

Featured image from Shutterstock.