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.

Senate Approves Five-Day Funding Measure to Prevent Government Shutdown at Midnight

On December 10, 2015, the Senate unanimously approved a five-day funding measure to prevent a government shutdown at midnight tonight.  This extension is in addition to the Temporary Spending Measures passed by Congress on September 30, 2015 to prevent a government shutdown starting October 1, 2015.  If passed, the extension would give Congress until December 16, 2015 to pass a comprehensive $1.1 trillion spending package.

According to numerous reports, today the House is expected to vote on and pass the measure and President Obama is expected to sign the short-term continuing resolution into law, thus avoiding the shutdown at midnight. Once passed, the short-term continuing resolution will also extend EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Religious Workers, and E-Verify for five additional days. Several experts have indicated that Congress is close to passing the omnibus federal spending bill.

D&S will continue to monitor this developing situation and provide timely updates.

USCIS Issues Draft EB-5 Policy Guidance In Wake of EB-5 Priority Date Retrogression

USCIS issued a Draft Policy Memorandum today, August 10, 2015, in anticipation of continuing issues regarding visa availability in the wake of the August 2014 retrogression of EB-5 visas for nationals of mainland China, which marked the first time in the history of the EB-5 Program that demand for visas exceeded availability.  Because EB-5 China retrogression is anticipated to extend into the foreseeable future, the Draft Memo provides additional guidance for two EB-5 eligibility grounds that may be affected by visa retrogression, namely, (1) the job creation requirement and (2) the requirement to sustain the investment during the conditional residence period. While doing little to change the actual policies in place regarding job creation and the sustained, at risk investment requirements, the Draft Memo does provide some examples of how investors may comply with these requirements even in the face of visa retrogression.

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