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New portal launches for principals of foreign countries of concern to register property

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(The Center Square ) – Florida has launched the first online property registration portal of its kind in the United States for foreign principals to register real property to comply with a new national security law that went into effect July 1.

It’s the latest of several measures Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state legislature have taken against countries like China, Iran and their operatives.

“Protecting Floridians and Florida’s infrastructure from agents like the Chinese Communist Party and other foreign adversaries is important to our state’s security,” DeSantis said when announcing the portal’s launch. “I am proud to have signed the strongest legislation in the nation to fight back against foreign malign influence.”

The Secure Florida Portal was launched to enable foreign principals from countries of concern to register property in compliance with state law.

A “foreign country of concern,” according to federal law, is one designated by the Secretary of State that “is determined to be engaged in conduct that is detrimental to the national security or foreign policy of the United States.”

The U.S. State Department designated the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran as foreign countries of concern.

Foreign countries of concern are separate from foreign entities of concern, which include foreign terrorist organizations, individuals and entities blocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury, among several others.

Florida’s new law applies to all countries of concern. However, DeSantis and the legislature’s stated aim primarily targets Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party operatives, and individuals and businesses affiliated with them. The law prohibits them from acquiring real property in Florida and requires that all foreign principals from countries of concern that already own property in Florida register with the state through the new portal.

The new law specifically applies to foreign principals who own or have an interest in real property located on or within 10 miles of any military installation or critical infrastructure facility in Florida.

It defines a “foreign principal” as: “The government or any official of the government of a foreign country of concern; (b) A political party or member of a political party or any subdivision of a political party in a foreign country of concern; (c) A partnership, association, corporation, organization, or other combination of persons organized under the laws of or having its principal place of business in a foreign country of concern, or a subsidiary of such entity; or (d) Any person who is domiciled in a foreign country of concern and is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States. …”

The law authorizes the departments of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Economic Opportunity to place liens against unregistered agricultural land or real property, respectively; requires certain foreign principals to sell, transfer, or otherwise divest themselves of certain agricultural land or real property within a specified timeframe; and authorizes certain agricultural land or real property to be forfeited to the state, among other provisions, according to the bill language.

If a foreign principal owned or acquired an interest in real property before July 1, 2023, the law requires the foreign principal to register the property by Dec. 31, 2023. Failure to do so may result in a daily fine of $1,000 for every day the registration is late.

The Secure Florida portal enables users to search properties and register properties, and provides information about business and residential property, multiple owners, and other information.

All information submitted to the Secure Florida portal is not confidential or exempt and is defined as a public record made available upon request, the portal states.

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