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Congress Passes Resolution to Extend Three Visa Programs

The Statue of Liberty in New York City, United States

On Sept. 29, 2016, a Continuing Resolution was signed into law to extend several important immigration programs, including the Conrad 30 Program, the non-minister special immigrant religious work program (SR visa), and the EB-5 Regional Center Program. The House and the Senate passed the Continuing Resolution on Sept. 28, 2016 and the president signed the bill into law on Sept. 29, 2016.

The Department of State explained that the EB-5 Regional Center Program (immigrant visa categories R51 and I51) is now set to expire on Dec. 9, 2016. All EB-5 immigrant visas based upon investments made in regional center projects must be issued by close of business on Dec. 9, 2016; this expiration date also applies to dependent spouses and children. The DOS has instructed all issuing posts to hold in abeyance any pending R51 and I51 immigrant visa applications beginning Dec. 10, 2016, if there is no extension of the EB-5 Regional Center Program on or before that date. Immigrant visas for investors not investing through a regional center can continue to be issued as that program remains valid beyond Dec. 9, 2016.

DOS has also confirmed that the extension of the EB-5 Regional Center Program through Dec. 9, 2016 will allow priority dates to immediately become “current” for October for all countries except mainland China. The “current” priority date for China mainland born I5 and R51 applicants is Feb. 22, 2014.

DOS has further discussed the expiration of the Conrad State 30 Program, which will also expire on Dec. 9, 2016. The Conrad 30 program allows medical doctors on J-1 visas to apply for a waiver of the two-year home residence requirement under INA 212(e) upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. Applicants who entered or were granted J-1 status on or before Dec. 8, 2016, may still apply for a Conrad State 30 waiver.

The authorization for the SR visa, which is for professional and non-professional workers within religious vocation or occupation categories other than the vocation of a minister, will also expire on Dec. 9, 2016. This expiration relates to immigrant visa recipients and their accompanying spouses and children only, and does not affect any nonimmigrant categories such as R-1 visas. Individuals seeking SR visa status are required to have applied for such status and be admitted into the United States prior to Dec. 9, 2016. DOS has instructed issuing visa posts that the validity of any SR visa issued must therefore be limited to Dec. 8, 2016, to coincide with the expiration of this classification. Posts that have issued SR visas in recent months should consider informing the recipients that they must travel by Dec. 8, 2016. Moreover, posts that issue SR visas in December should be sure to inform the individual of the expiration date and necessity of traveling before the expiration date. If the visa holder is not admitted into the United States before the program expires, replacement visas cannot be issued. Beginning Dec. 9, 2016, posts are advised by the DOS to hold in abeyance any pending SR application.

The Department of State Visa Office will continue to provide guidance as the process continues. In December, following the federal elections, Congress is expected to reconvene for a “lame duck” session. At that time, Congress will once again consider the extension of these vital visa programs.

If you are interested in applying for a U.S. visa, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!