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  • Article: Congress to Extend Current EB-5 Program Until September 30, 2016 – Changes Other Immigration Programs. By Robert J. Blanco

    Congress to Extend Current EB-5 Program Until September 30, 2016 – Changes Other Immigration Programs


    Congressional leaders reached an agreement and are expected to pass the 2016 Federal Omnibus bill, which will include reauthorizing and extending the EB-5 Regional Center program through September 30, 2016.  This bill will keep the EB-5 program in its current state, without making any reforms.  As a result, the Department of State will continue to schedule Immigrant Visa appointments for foreign nationals with approved I-526 petitions and current Priority Dates.

    After months of speculation surrounding the Regional Center expiration on September 30, 2015 and again on December 11, 2015, the clarity of an extension through September 30, 2016 is welcome news.  The past few months have seen numerous EB-5 reform proposals introduced in Congress, affecting all aspects of the EB-5 program, including increased minimum investment amounts, TEA designations, increased fees, and restrictive visa allocations, to name a few.  Although there is still strong interest in reforming the EB-5 program, ultimately, Congress was unable to come to an agreement on many of the key proposals.

    It is unclear whether Congress will enact substantive changes to the EB-5 program in the coming months.  We support legislative efforts to improve the integrity of the program, combat fraud, and encourage continued investment and job creation in the United States.  We hope that this extension will allow Congress the opportunity to work with the EB-5 industry to enact long-term reform measures that benefit all aspects of the EB-5 program.

    The 2016 Federal Omnibus bill had the potential to affect many other immigration issues in addition to the EB-5 program.  Some of the most pertinent issues are discussed below:

    • Refugees – The bill does not include any language halting the resettlement of Syrian or Iraqi refugees as previously contemplated in the House.
    • Conrad 30 Waiver and Religious Workers – Historically included for extension with the EB-5 Regional Center program, these two programs have also been extended until September 30, 2016 with no changes.
    • H-1B and L-1 Fees – The bill creates additional government filing fees for large companies that hire many H-1B and L-1 employees:
      • L-1 Fees increase by $4,500 if the employer has 50 or more employees and 50% of those employees are nonimmigrants in either H-1B or L-1 status.
      • H-1B Fees increase by $4,000 if the employer has 50 or more employees and 50% of those employees are nonimmigrants in L-1 status.
    • Visa Waiver Program – The bill incorporates H.R. 158, which excludes from the visa waiver program all “nationals” of Syria, Iraq, or other designated countries. It also excludes anyone who has travelled to Iraq or Syria within the past five years and establishes additional reporting requirements from member countries.
    • Sanctuary Cities – The bill does not include any language defunding or limiting the practices of sanctuary cities.
    • DAPA / DACA – DAPA and DACA are currently the subject of a highly publicized federal lawsuit. The bill does not block the Department of Justice from defending these programs in the pending lawsuit.

    As 2016 is a Presidential election year, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to pass any kind of substantive immigration legislation, particularly given recent international events.  However, we remain hopeful that Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform that will have positive effects on foreign nationals and the U.S. businesses that rely on foreign skilled workers and investments.

    This post origginally appeared on Wolfsdorf Immigration Law Group. Reprinted with permission.

    About The Author

    Robert J. Blanco Robert J. Blanco specializes in business and employment immigration cases. He prepares both immigrant and non-immigrant petitions for skilled workers, executive managers, high net worth investors, and people of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, and business. As a member of the firm's EB-5 team, Mr. Blanco prepares cases for individual investors and advises U.S. businesses on how to structure investment projects under the regulations of the EB-5 program. He also represents clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Mr. Blanco graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School with a concentration in Corporate Law. Mr. Blanco is admitted to practice law in the state of California. Mr. Blanco may be reached at rblanco@wolfsdorf.com.

    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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