Three Critical Immigration Visa Programs Extended

Religious Worker Immigrant Visa, Immigrant Investor Visa, Conrad State 30 Program for doctors

 On October 5, 2016, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) issued an extension on The Conrad State 30 Program, the EB-5 Regional Center (Immigrant Investor) Program, and the Special Immigrant Religious Worker Program (SR Visa)

Under the Conrad 30 Visa Waiver Program, each state’s health department can request J-1 Visa Waivers for up to 30 foreign physicians per year.  The program addressed the shortage of qualified doctors in federally designated health professional shortage areas or medically underserved areas.  Although each state has developed its own application rules and guidelines, the above program requirements apply to all J-1 medical doctors.

The Department of State cable points out that applicants who entered or were granted J-1 status on or before December 8, 2016, may still apply for a Conrad State 30 Waiver.

Under the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, entrepreneurs (and their spouses and unmarried children under 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they:

  • Make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States; and
  • Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers

First instituted by Congress in 1990, the EB-5 Program, seeks to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.  In 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program, which ensures EB-5 visas be awarded to those foreign individuals who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

A September 2016 Forbes article entitled “Why Congress Will Extend the EB-5 Immigrant Visa Program,” argued that the EB-5 immigration visa may be “the best immigration program the U.S. has to offer.”  Emphasizing investments made by Chinese and Mexican investors, the article hones in on the importance of utilizing foreign investors who have had ample experiences generating growth in underdeveloped, urban areas.

Under the Special Immigrant Religious Worker Program (SR Visa), ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations may immigrate to or adjust status in the United States for the purpose of performing religious work in a full-time compensated position.  Individuals seeking SR visa status are required to have applied for such status and be admitted into the United Status prior to December 9, 2016.

There is a statutory numerical limit (or “cap”) of 5,000 workers who may be issued a special immigrant non-minister religious worker visa during each fiscal year.  There is no cap for special immigrant religious workers entering the United States solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister.

Like EB-5 visas, SR visas were first put in place by Congress in 1990.  Since that time, many religious workers and those positively affected by religious organizations in their community have argued for a permanent legislative extension.