An attorney called me last week about his foreign client who owned Florida jointly with his wife. Neither the client nor his wife had a green card, although both had visitor visas entitling them to be in the United States and Florida for a limited time. The attorney represented the husband as a defendant in a civil lawsuit in Florida court. The attorney asked me if the real property was exempt from his client’s individual creditors as tenants by entireties property. The issue is whether a temporary visitor to Florida can qualify for Florida’s tenancy by entireties protections.
Permanent residency is an issue in homestead protection. Florida courts have ruled that residents without permanent visas (green cards) cannot claim homestead because legally they are unable to resided permanently in Florida or any other state. Permanent residence is not a requirement for tenancy by entireties. T by E protection is a common law protection rather than a creation of Florida statute so there is no statutory requirement of permanent residency either. Tenancy by entireties is a concept of property ownership without residency qualification. I told the attorney that in my opinion any married couple owning joint property in Florida can claim entireties protection as to the Florida property.