D&S Legislative Update: Omnibus Spending Bill Passed by the House, Up for Vote in the Senate

In the late hours of Tuesday evening, December 15, 2015, after days of intense negotiations, Congressional leadership announced that it has reached a sweeping year-end deal on the omnibus federal spending bill needed to continue to fund the Federal government. This announcement follows the five-day continuing resolution passed by Congress on December 10, 2015, to allow for additional time for the omnibus federal spending bill to be finalized and avoid a government shutdown.

On Thursday, December 17, 2015, the House passed the spending bill by a vote of 318 to 109.  The Senate is expected to vote on and pass the bill on Friday, December 18, 2015.  The omnibus appropriations bill contains a recommendation to extend the EB-5 program in its current form through September 30, 2016, without the widely discussed changes to the minimum investment amounts or the definition of Targeted Employment Area (TEA).  In addition to extending the EB-5 program, the bill will also extend other expiring immigration programs, including the E-verify program, Conrad 30 waivers for J-1 medical workers, and R-1 visas for religious workers. Finally, the bill contains reforms to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), including the requirement that program users have electronic passports with biometric and biographic information and restricting use of the program for certain individuals who have traveled to Iraq, Sudan, Iran and Syria.

UPDATE: On Friday, December 18, 2015, the U.S. Senate approved the spending bill by a vote of 65 to 33. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law no later than December 18th.