Four key immigration programs have been extended without alteration after Congress passed a short-term budget bill this past weekend.

The programs were set to expire Dec. 9 after Congress passed a stopgap spending measure Sept. 30, at the end of the fiscal year. The immigration programs, along with other federal government programs, have now been extended again through April 28, 2017.

The programs that were extended are:

  • The Non-minister Special Immigrant Religious Workers Program. This visa category is for non-minister professional and nonprofessional religious workers. The category covers immigrant visa recipients, but does not affect nonimmigrant categories such as the R-1 visa category.
  • The Conrad 30 Waiver Program. This program addresses the shortage of doctors in certain geographic areas. It allows J-1 medical doctors to apply for a waiver to a requirement that they return to their foreign residence for two years after completing a J-1 exchange visa program in medically underserved communities.
  • The EB-5 Regional Center Immigrant Investor Program. This program (visa categories R51 and I51) allows foreign entrepreneurs to apply for green cards if they make substantial investments in commercial enterprises through “regional centers” in the U.S.

E-Verify. E-Verify is the electronic system that employers use to verify employees’ authorization to work in the U.S.  The system compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration data. Certain employers who enter into contracts with the federal government are legally required to participate in E-Verify, and some states have enacted laws mandating wider participation.

The extension of the programs described above applies not only to principal visa applicants, but also to spouses and dependent children. Notably, the spending bill did not reinstate a “returning worker” exemption in the H-2B nonimmigrant visa program that lapsed at the end of the 2016 fiscal year.

BAL Analysis: The spending bill will extend the programs listed above through April 28, but Congress must approve a longer-term budget bill for them to be extended beyond that.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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