Spending Bill Also Extends Certain Immigration Programs29 Dec 2020
In recent years, each time an annual budget or continuing resolution has been passed into law, it has also been used to extend certain immigration programs that were scheduled to expire. The omnibus spending bill signed into law on December 27, 2020, which funds the federal government through September 30, 2021, is no exception. What follows is a brief overview of some of the immigration provisions that are being extended.
EB5 Regional Center Program Extended Only Until 30Jun2021
It is no surprise that the spending bill included a provision to extend the regional center portion of the EB5 immigrant investor program. What is surprising is that the extension was only provided through June 30, 2021.
For many years, the regional center program has been routinely extended by Congress with apparently little thought or debate, as the extension has been buried within massive spending bills. Now, Congress will have to act specifically on this program by June 30th in order for it to survive. The regional center program has been in existence for almost 30 years, so the hope is that steps will be taken to extend the program, and perhaps improve it and make it permanent, prior to June 30th.
EB4 Non-Minister Religious Worker, E-Verify, and Conrad 30 Waiver Extended Through 31Sep2021
EB4 Non-Minister Religious Worker
The EB4 subcategory for non-minister religious occupations or vocations has an expiration date, which has now been extended until September 30, 2021.The EB4 special immigrant category includes religious workers, which is 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.
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) or religious occupation, 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 E-Verify program is now authorized to continue operating at least until September 30, 2021. 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. The E-Verify program is now authorized to continue operating at least until September 30, 2021.
Conrad 30 Physician J-1 Waiver Program Extension
The extension of the Conrad 30 program will permit many international medical graduates (IMGs), who enter the United States in J-1 status before the new expiration date of September 30, 2021, to apply for waivers based on work to be performed or having been performed in medically underserved areas (MUAs). This is important both to individual physicians, and to the U.S. healthcare system.
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 (commonly, the “green card”).
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 extension of these diverse immigration programs is welcome news. Anyone with questions about one of the extended immigration programs is invited to schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Murthy Law Firm attorney.
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