Prior to adjournment for the elections in November, Congress passed some immigration provisions temporarily extending a few immigration programs. The legislation would extend the Conrad 30 program, the EB-4 Religious Worker Program, the E-Verify program and the EB-5 Regional Center Pilot Program through March 6, 2009. Congress will have to consider additional legislation in 2009 in order to further extend these programs or make them permanent. Congress failed to provide any immigration relief in the employment-based immigrant visa categories, including reauthorization of the exemption from the preference quotas for Schedule A occupations (Registered Nurses and Physical Therapists).
The E-Verify Program was scheduled to sunset at the end of November 2008 if it was not extended or reauthorized. E-Verify still remains a voluntary program even though some states (including Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and most recently Missouri) have all mandated its use in some forms. If Congress failed to extend the E-Verify Program, these states’ immigration laws could have been greatly disrupted. Additionally, employers that are federal contractors and subcontractors may have to use the E-Verify program to verify the employment eligibility for all new hires and current employees assigned to work on future federal contracts according to an Executive Order issued in June. However, the terms of the Executive Order will not become effective until final regulations are issued which is expected by January 2009.