Spending Bill Extends Several Immigration Programs until 08.Dec.2017

As expected, President Trump signed a bill into law on Friday, September 8, 2017, to fund the federal government through December 8, 2017. The bill includes numerous other provisions, including emergency disaster relief funding, as well as the extension of the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5) regional center program, the employment-based, fourth preference (EB4) category for non-minister religious workers, and the Conrad 30 waiver program for J-1 physicians.

EB5 Regional Center Program

The regional center program is a key part of the EB5 immigrant investor category. Since it was first started in 1993, the program has always had a sunset (i.e. expiration) date. While there has been much discussion of the program being made permanent, in recent years, Congress has instead opted to provide short-term extensions of the program while a more long-term solution can be worked out.

The current minimum investment requirements for EB5 are $1,000,000, or $500,000 for an investment made in a targeted employment area (TEA) (i.e. a rural area or area with high unemployment). These investment requirements are widely expected to be increased in the near future, either by Congress or, more likely, through regulation. For now, however, the investment requirements are likely to remain as they are, at least through December 8, 2017.

EB4 Non-Minister Religious Worker Program Extension

The EB4 special immigrant category includes religious workers, who are divided into two subcategories: ministers and non-minsters. The subcategory for ministers does not have an expiration date, so only the non-ministers subcategory had to be extended. EB4 for non-ministers may include positions such as a missionary or a religious teacher. This program is important for religious organizations in the United States, as many of them rely on EB4 immigrants to perform important religious duties.

Conrad 30 Waiver Program

Many international medical graduates (IMGs) who wish to receive graduate medical training in the United States use the J-1 exchange visitor program. Those IMGs who participate in this program, however, are subject to a two-year home-residence requirement. This means that, following completion of the training, IMGs must return to their respective home countries for two years before they may apply for H or L visas, or for permanent residence (i.e. the “green card”). Such persons also generally are 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.

Physicians who do not 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 in the United States that is medically under served. Each U.S. state is allocated 30 waiver slots per year to distribute to physicians who apply to 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 December 8, 2017, to apply for waivers based on work in medically under served areas. This is important both to individual physicians, and to the U.S. healthcare system as a whole.


Once again, Congress has opted for a relatively short-term extension of these immigration programs. It remains to be seen whether a deal can be worked out for a more long-term, or even permanent extension of these programs.


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