By a unanimous vote, the Senate approved a bill (S. 3245) that would extend four key immigration programs. The bill, which Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced on May 24, 2012, authorizes a three-year extension for the E-Verify program, the EB-5 Regional Center program, the Special Immigrant Religious Worker program and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program. All four programs are set to expire on September 30, 2012, and the bill would set a new expiration date of September 30, 2015.
- The E-Verify program assists employers in verifying the employment eligibility of its employees.
- The EB-5 Regional Center program is available to immigrant entrepreneurs who invest between $500,000 and $1,000,000 in a U.S. business that creates 10 full-time jobs for American workers.In exchange for job creation the entrepreneurs are given permanent resident status.
- The Special Immigrant Religious Worker program provides a path to permanent residence for religious workers in the United States. The religious workers can hold a professional or non-professional position within their religious vocation.
- The Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver program assists medical doctors studying in the United States on J-1 status. Each state receives 30 J-1 visa waivers for foreign medical graduates each fiscal year. A J-1 visa waiver eliminates the requirement that a J-1 physician return to his or her home country for two years before applying for a permanent U.S. visa.
The bill is now pending before the House for consideration.