On May 8, 2023, the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, approved a new law called Florida Senate Bill SB 264 (FL 264) that will limit land ownership in Florida by foreign nationals from certain countries. The law will go into effect on July 1, 2023, unless there is a legal delay because lawsuits have already been filed.
This law places strict rules on who can own land in Florida. People from certain countries like China, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba cannot own agricultural land in Florida or any land within 10 miles of a military base or important infrastructure. However, U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not affected by this law.
Here are the main points of the law:
- People from those countries mentioned earlier cannot directly or indirectly own or buy agricultural land or any part of it, unless it is a very small part (less than 5% ownership) of a company that owns the land.
- They also cannot own or buy any land within 10 miles of a military base or important infrastructure in Florida, unless it is a very small part (less than 5% ownership) of a company that owns the land.
- Important infrastructure includes facilities like chemical manufacturing plants, power plants, seaports, and airports.
- Starting from July 1, 2023, people who want to buy land in Florida must provide a document saying they are not from those countries.
- People who already own agricultural land before July 1, 2023, can keep it, but they must register it. If they don’t register, they will have to pay a penalty of $1,000 per day.
- If someone breaks these rules, they can face penalties, like having their land taken away or even criminal charges.
The law also has specific restrictions for people from China:
- People from China, including government officials, political party members, and business organizations, cannot buy land in Florida unless they are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
- Those who owned the land before July 1, 2023, will have a registration requirement, and buyers after the law starts need to prove they are not affected by these rules.
- There is an exception for Chinese people who want to buy a house (up to two acres) for living, as long as it is not within five miles of a military base and they have a valid U.S. visa. Diplomatic properties are also exempt.
On May 22, 2023, a lawsuit was filed against the law, arguing that it is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, DeHeng Law Offices PC, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and Chinese American Legal Defense Alliance (CALDA) are representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.