Religious Worker, E-Verify, and Conrad 30 Programs Extended
As explained in our NewsBrief, EB5 Regional Center Program extended to Sep 2015 (22.Oct.2012), there were four immigration programs that were recently extended beyond their slated September 30, 2012 expiration. The three remaining programs extended through September 30, 2015 are: the "non-minister" Religious Worker Program (EB4); the E-Verify employment verification program; and the Conrad 30 Physician J-1 Waiver Program. Following are details of these important programs for the benefit of MurthyDotCom readers.
EB4 Non-Minister Religious Worker Program Extension
The employment-based, fourth preference (EB4) special immigrant category includes religious workers. Religious workers are divided into two subcategories. The first category is for ministers, defined as ordained individuals authorized to conduct religious worship and to perform duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy. The subcategory for such ordained ministers does not have an expiration date. The EB4 subcategory for non-minister religious occupations or vocations does have an expiration date, which has been extended to September 30, 2015.
To qualify in the EB4 religious worker category, the foreign national must either have sponsorship for a full-time, compensated position for a nonprofit religious organization in the United States as a minister of that organization or in a religious vocation (for example, a monk or nun) in either a professional or nonprofessional capacity. The foreign national must be able to demonstrate that, for at least the two years immediately preceding the filing of the EB4 petition, s/he has been a member of the religious denomination and s/he has been working in one of the qualifying religious occupations.
The extension of the non-minister EB4 classification is important for religious organizations in the United States, as many of them rely on EB4 immigrants to perform important religious duties. The expiration date of September 30, 2015, now allows for this new deadline for religious worker applicants to immigrate to the United States, or adjust status to permanent residence within that new timeframe (although further extensions are likely).
E-Verify Employment Verification Program Extension
E-Verify is a web-based service operated by the U.S. government. It allows employers to verify that their workers are authorized to work in the United States. The system permits an employer to verify information provided by the employee on the I-9 form for employment verification with the information in the databases of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.
In most cases, use of the E-Verify system is entirely voluntary. Some federal contractors, however, are required to use E-Verify. Some states now also require certain employers to use E-Verify. Enrollment of an employer in E-Verify is very important for F-1 students with qualified degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Eligibility for extensions of Optional Practical Training (OPT) for such students requires employment with an E-Verify participating employer. As a result of the President’s signature, the E-Verify program is now authorized to continue operating at least until September 30, 2015.
Conrad 30 Physician J-1 Waiver Program Extension
International medical graduates (IMGs) who receive graduate medical training in the United States, often do so in J-1 exchange visitor status. Under U.S. immigration laws, such persons are subject to two-year home-residence requirement. At the completion of their programs, persons subject to the two-year residency requirement must return to their respective home countries for two years before they can apply for H or L visas, or for permanent residence (the "green card"). Such persons are also generally not allowed to file for any change of status within the United States. This requirement is intended to benefit the home countries by returning qualified physicians to practice there. Foreign persons who have received U.S. graduate medical educations, therefore, generally are prevented from applying for the most common temporary worker visa for foreign physicians (H1B), or from applying for a green card until they have either returned to their home countries for the two-year period or obtained waivers of the two-year residency requirement.
Physicians who do no wish to comply with the two-year return requirement may be able to obtain waivers forgiving the requirement. Such J-1 physicians are not eligible for the most common waiver of the home residence requirement - the waiver based on no objection by the home country government. They typically, therefore, utilize an Interested Government Agency waiver, including the Conrad 30 waiver program.
The Conrad 30 program permits J-1 physicians to receive waivers of the home residence requirement if they agree to practice for three years in a geographic area that is medically underserved. Each U.S. state is allocated 30 waiver slots per year to distribute to physicians who apply to the relevant state agencies. The extension of the Conrad 30 program will permit many foreign physicians, who enter the United States in J-1 status before the new expiration date of September 30, 2015, to apply for waivers based on work in medically underserved areas. This is important both to individual physicians, and to the U.S. healthcare system as a whole.
The extension of these diverse immigration programs for an additional three years until September 2015 allows persons who are eligible for benefits under the law to continue extending their statuses, or to file new applications without concern about expiration before September 2015. Anyone with questions about one of the extended immigration programs is welcome to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Murthy law Firm attorney.
Copyright © 2012, MURTHY LAW FIRM. All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.