Can Illegal Immigrants Possible Get Homestead Protection?

Illegal immigration is in the news in 2018, including legal status of adults and their minor children. Florida courts have considered immigration status in the context of Florida homestead protection.

The Supreme Court said in 1963 that only legal Florida residents can own a protected Florida homestead property. The reasoning is that homestead protection requires intent to permanently reside in Florida, and one cannot intend to permanently reside here if there remains a legal impediment to residency. Therefore, a person with a temporary residency visa cannot claim rightfully and in good faith that he intends to permanently reside in a Florida home. U.S. citizenship is not required if the homeowner has a permanent visa, or “green card.”

More recently, in 2012, the Court looked at a situation where a married couple was in this country on a temporary visa, and the couple had children in the U.S. during their temporary status. The foreign couple bought a Florida home and supported their minor children in the home. The Court held  that a Florida homeowner residing in the U.S. on a temporary visa could claim the benefits of Florida homestead because they supported children who were U.S. citizens and permanent residents. I assume the same rule would apply to illegal immigrants who supported U.S. born children and somehow obtained legal ownership of a Florida home.

The Court pointed out that the Florida Constitution’s homestead provision was designed to shelter the homeowner and his family or dependents from the misfortune of debt. A non-U.S. citizen without permanent legal immigration status, and presumably an illegal resident, could protect an interest in a Florida resident if he lived in the property with dependents who were citizens or permanent residents.

Jon Alper

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