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Extension of EB-5 Regional Center, E-Verify, Nonminister Religious Worker, and Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Programs

Sep28
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Extension of EB-5 Regional Center, E-Verify, Nonminister Religious Worker, and Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Programs

The US House of Representatives voted on September 13, 2012, a 412 to 3, to extend the EB-5 Regional Center Program, the E-Verify Program, the Special Immigrant Nonminister Religious Worker Program, and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program, for another 3 years.  S. 3245, 112th Cong. (2012).   The matter will now be presented to the President for signature.

“EB-5” refers to Employment-Based Immigrant Fifth Category for permanent residence for “Immigrant Investors.”  The basic concept of the Investor Visa is not only to invest in our economy but also to create jobs for US workers.  Regional Centers were created to facilitate foreign investment through the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program in 1992.  A regional center is “any economic entity, public or private, which is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment.”  Organizers may apply for regional center designation through US Citizenship and Immigration Services if they meet certain qualifications to further the former definition.  At present USCIS lists 226 such entities located throughout the United States.  Applicants for permanent residence must still qualify as an Immigrant Investor, but the regional center program offers a “more expansive concept of job creation including both “indirect” and “direct” jobs for investors.

The “E-Verify Program” was created to provide employers with an electronic verification system to verify employment authorization of new hires.  The internet-based system is linked with the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration to compare data collected from an employee on a Form I-9 Application for Employment Eligibility Verification form completed by all employees at the time of hire since November 1986.  While E-Verify is not mandatory at the federal level, some states require all or select employers to utilize the system.

Under the Employment Based Immigration: Fourth Preference category, ministers and nonminister foreign nationals in religious vocations and occupations may apply for permanent residence.  There is no cap for ministers who qualify under the Fourth Preference category, but the nonminister category is capped at 5,000 visas annually.  Nonminister positions may be professional or non-professional, but the offered position must meet the definition of a religious vocation or occupation and the petitioner must qualify as a religious organization.

The Conrad 30 Waiver Program allows medical doctors on a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visas, who would otherwise be subject to a two year home residence requirement, to remain in the United States in another working category if they agree to practice in a Medically Underserved Area (MUA).  Generally, a medical doctor who enters the US in J-1 Exchange Visitor Status is obligated to return to his/her country of residence after a designated period of time for two years The idea is that the exchange visitor share the skills he/she earned in the United States with his/her country of residence where it is most needed.  However, recognizing that the United States also has underserved areas, a waiver was created to allow foreign medical doctors in J-1 status to fulfill the need in MUAs designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  If eligible, a foreign medical doctor would be employed full-time in H-1B Temporary Worker nonimmigrant status.

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