Proposed US legislation would make EB-5 visa and others permanent

US Senator Patrick Leahy recently introduced legislation that would give permanent status for the EB-5 Regional Center program, also known as the Immigrant Investor Pilot Program. Additionally, the E-Verify program, "Conrad 30" J-1 program, and the Religious Worker immigrant visa would also be made permanent. In the past, Congress has granted all four programs temporary extensions, however all are set to expire at the end of this fiscal year on 30 September 2012.

EB-5 Regional Center Program (Immigrant Investor Pilot Program)
The EB-5 immigrant visa program grants green cards to immigrants who invest USD$500,000 to $1 million in a "new commercial enterprise" that will benefit the US economy and create at least 10 jobs. EB-5 requirements for an investor under the Pilot Program are essentially the same as in the standard EB-5 investor program, except the Pilot Program provides for investments that are affiliated with an economic unit known as a "Regional Center." USCIS defines a Regional Center as any company that is involved with the promotion of economic growth, improved regional productivity, job creation and increased domestic capital investment. In order to be designated as Regional Center, organizers must submit a proposal, meeting USCIS' eligibility requirements.

E-Verify program
E-Verify is an online, fully electronic federal database used for verifying if an employee is eligible to lawfully work in the US. The program uses data from US Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. E-Verify is mostly voluntary, however some states have laws requiring its use. It is also required by federal contractors, subcontractors, and federal agencies.

"Conrad 30" J-1 program
The "Conrad 30" J-1 program allows eligible immigrants who are trained as doctors at US universities to stay in the country after their medical training is completed. In most cases, the J-1 program requires doctors to return home for at least two years before returning to the US, but this program waives this requirement for doctors who work in certain rural areas. Each state can sponsor up to 30 doctors annually in this program.

Religious Worker immigrant visa
The Religious Worker immigrant visa program allows eligible immigrants to obtain green cards to work either as a minister or as a non-minister in a religious organization. Every year, approximately 10,000 employment-based visas are set aside for this program, with half of them set aside for non-minister immigrants.

However, there are many critics of the above programs. For instance, critics argue that the "Conrad 30" J-1 program displaces US doctors and deprives developing countries of much-needed medical care providers by not requiring immigrants to return to their home country after they finish their studies. Additionally, many have argued that there is widespread fraud and abuse of the Religious Worker Immigrant Visa program. Some Senators have said they wish to only approve a temporary extension of these four programs instead of making them permanent to allow for future reviews of these programs.

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