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Appropriations Bill Contains Multiple Immigration Provisions

waste-paper-499987-m.jpgCongress is currently debating the year-end bill that will provide for government spending and budget allocations for 2016. The bill is expected to be brought to the floor in the next few days and voted on in the next week. Included in the appropriations are multiple immigration-related provisions that could greatly affect existing immigration laws and regulations.

Extension and Changes for the EB-5 Program

The EB-5 program welcomes foreign investment to the United States by allowing an investor to qualify for a green card if the investor commits either $500,000 or $1 million to a U.S. business. The EB-5 program was scheduled to end last week, but Congress reauthorized it as part of a short-term spending bill that the two legislative chambers worked out in order to fund the government through December 16, 2015.

The changes proposed for the EB-5 program include changing how Targeted Employment Areas (TEAs) are categorized. TEAs are critically important to the program because they allow an investor to commit only $500,000, which is a more realistic sum for many potential investors. Additionally, the proposal would also reserve a certain number of EB-5 visas for different types of investment categories, such as investments into rural areas, investments into $1 million projects, and so on. EB-5 advocates argue that the effect of such earmarks would be to only further restrict who can receive an investment-based green card and when they can receive it.

Changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

In the wake of the horrific Paris attacks, the House of Representatives quickly voted to restrict immigration to the U.S. for foreign nationals who utilize the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which is a reciprocal agreement between the U.S. and many European and South American countries. The VWP allows Americans and foreign nationals to travel to certain countries without the need for getting a visa. The House has included its legislation in the omnibus bill. If the language passes, any person who has traveled to Syria, Sudan, Iran, or Iraq since March 2011 will be required to obtain a visa to come to the U.S., notwithstanding the person’s qualification for the VWP.

Additionally, the legislation would also rescind the VWP benefits from participating countries who have dual citizenship laws with Sudan, Iran, Iraq, or Syria.

Addressing the Resettlement of Refugees

A number of Senators are calling for a provision to be added to the bill that would defund the refugee resettlement program. This type of measure is referred to as a “poison pill” because it could work to kill the entire bill if the Democrats in the Senate refuse to pass it until the language is removed.

The Rant

Congress is going to vote on the bill this week, and the process will likely be covered on C-SPAN, television news networks, and the major print media. Everyone is urged to follow the progress of the bill and to contact their representatives to tell them that any anti-immigration provisions should be removed from the legislation. Continue to check back with our blog for all immigration and investor visa updates.

Additional Blog Posts:

The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012
Obama Signs Immigration Executive Order, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012
Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012