Three visa programs that expired last September 30 were recently extended through Dec. 9, 2016. The visa programs are the Conrad State 30 Program, the non-minister special immigrant religious worker program (SR visa), and the EB-5 Regional Center Immigrant Investor program.
The Conrad 30 program allows state health departments and agencies to recommend the waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement for up to 30 foreign medical graduates upon completion of their J-1 exchange visitor program. This waiver allows them to change their status to H-1B or adjust to permanent residence and meet the demand for healthcare in medically underserved areas where doctors are in short supply.
An extension was also granted to the employment-based 4th preference category visa for non-minister religious workers. This visa grants special immigrant status to professionals and non-professionals working within a certain religious vocation other than being ministers. The extension also includes their accompanying spouses and children. To be eligible, an applicant must have been a member of a religious denomination with a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US and he must have also have been working in a religious vocation or occupation aside from those that are purely administrative in nature.
Lastly, extension was granted to the EB-5 Regional Center Immigrant Investor Program (R51 and I51 visa categories). This comes as a welcome development since organizations of business leaders, trade associations and government officials had recently urged Congress and members of the Judiciary Committee to take a second-look at the program.
The EB-5 regional center program grants a green card to foreign nationals who invest in any of the regional centers all over the country. As of October 3, 2016, the USCIS has approved 863 regional centers across the country.
In its letter to the members of Congress, the EB-5 Investment Coalition highlighted the contribution that the program has done especially in turning the wheels of the American economy. According to the group, the program has created jobs, facilitated growth of vital industries in different parts of the country and essentially, has revitalized communities.
“The program, has facilitated billions of dollars in direct foreign investment into a diverse range of projects throughout the United States and has thereby generated over $15 billion from 2005-2015, creating well over 100,000 new US jobs in that time,” stressed the coalition.
Unlike the regular EB-5 program which requires the investor to create 10 full-time jobs in two years, a regional center investor can use the more relaxed requirement of indirect job creation. Furthermore, for regional centers $500,000 is usually sufficient for investment as opposed to the $1,000,000 required under the regular EB-5 program making it a more welcoming program to anyone who wishes to invest in a targeted employment area.