Alien Property Ownership on Guam

This was originally published in the March 2014 issue of CasaGuam Magazine.  Click here to view the current and past CasaGuam issues.

Title 21 of the Guam Code Annotated (GCA) § 1203 Who May Own Property, deals with Alien Property Ownership.   It states:  “Any person, except an alien, may take, hold, and dispose of real property within Guam, and any person, whether an alien or not, may take, hold, and dispose of personal property within Guam.

The law continues in GCA § 1204.  Which states in part “……The prohibition shall not apply to ownership or lease of single family, residential, apartment, or condominium type housing (one unit per alien family) and the land on which such housing is located …”

But what if a non-US citizen acquires property through inheritance?  The law allows for the alien to hold title to the property for a period of five years after which it must be sold to a person or company qualified to hold title.

So how would a person who is not a citizen of the United States of American purchase property on Guam?   Since GCA § 1204 allows an alien to legally acquire a single residential property, there is no problem buying a house or condominium.  It only gets tricky when an alien wishes to buy commercial property, or a second home, or even agricultural land.

A common practice is for the non-US citizen to establish a Guam corporation, which corporation may purchase an unlimited amount of properties.  Since the corporation is a Guam corporation, paying Guam taxes, it is considered a legal entity to hold title.

Interestingly enough, while Guam law restricts the rights of aliens to hold title to real property, the US Constitution does not allow for these restrictions.  I do not know of any case in which our Attorney General has challenged an aliens right to own real estate, and if it were to occur, it would be very interesting to see if the law was thrown out for being unconstitutional.

Guam’s ethnic diversity is one of our biggest attractions and foreign investment is key to the continued development of our economy.   In keeping with our Constitutionally granted equal rights under the law, I encourage our local lawmakers to repeal the alien property act and welcome our neighbors and investors with open arms.

Kim Anderson Young, president of Security Title, has over 30 years of experience in the real estate industry.  Contact her at kim@securitytitle.net or 647.8100.

Kim

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