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Senate bill to make EB-5, E-Verify, other immigration programs permanent

Four United States immigration programs are scheduled to automatically end September 30 if Congress does not act. The four programs include the EB-5 investor visa program, the E-Verify program, Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program and a specialty visa waiver program for doctors, known as the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program.

In the past, Congress has extended the programs on a temporary basis, but U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced a measure in the Senate that intends to make the immigration programs permanent fixtures in U.S. immigration law.

The EB-5 investor visa program has been discussed on this blog in a number of times. The program allows foreign nationals to obtain a green card through investing in a new commercial enterprise in the United States that creates jobs.

The EB-5 program is slated to end later this year. The newly introduced Senate bill would scratch the term "pilot" from the program that was originally created in the 1990s as a pilot program and has received temporary reauthorizations ever since. The Senate bill would permanently reauthorize the investor visa program.

Similarly, the E-Verify program was created as a pilot program. Employment eligibility verification and I-9 compliance has been a hot button issue in Florida and across the country in recent years. Governor Rick Scott has mandated that state employers in Florida participate in the E-Verify system. Use of the federal program remains voluntary for private Florida businesses.

The Senate bill does not modify the program, but intends to make reauthorization of the E-Verify program permanent.

The remaining two programs proposed for permanent reauthorization involve visa issues for doctors and religious workers. Typically, doctors trained in the U.S under the J-1 visa program are required to return to their home country for a period of time. However, the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program allows each state to administer up to 30 waivers each year for doctors who agree to work in designated areas that have a shortage of doctors, according to the Florida Department of Health. The waiver allows the immigrant doctors to live and work in the U.S. after completing their medical training.

The last program proposed for permanent reauthorization is the Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program, which creates a special immigrant status for qualified ministers and nonministers in religious vocations or occupations, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Source: U.S. Government Printing Office, "S. 3245," May 24, 2012

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