The bipartisan appropriations measure approved in February brought mixed news for both individuals seeking to come to the U.S. and companies looking to employ them.
Here are the immigration programs impacted by the latest appropriations measure.
VAWA Green Cards
Congressional Democrats let the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) lapse. They plan to expand the law’s protections for victims in separate legislation. Even though VAWA has expired, the programs that had been put in place under VAWA remain secure at least until Sept. 30—the end of the fiscal year. The appropriations measure continued funding for those programs until the end of the fiscal year.
Congress extended the EB-5 Regional Center Program without any changes through the remainder of the 2019 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.
The program allows a foreign national to get a green card by investing $1 million in a regional center that creates at least 10 full-time jobs. A regional center is a business—often a real-estate project—approved by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the regional center is located in a rural or high unemployment area, a foreign national only needs to invest $500,000. The job requirement remains the same.
More Temporary Visas
The new budget gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the ability to raise the cap on the number of H-2B temporary visas issued by USCIS to about 69,000 visas. Currently, the annual cap stands at 66,000, with 33,000 for workers who start working from Oct. 1 to March 31—the six months of the fiscal year. Another 33,000 are reserved for those who start working in the second half of the fiscal year from April 1 to Sept. 30.
The H-2B program enables U.S. employers to bring citizens from certain countries to the U.S. to work in temporary, non-agricultural jobs. If you have questions or would like assistance in filing H-2B visa petitions, please contact us.
The deadline for H-2B petitions requesting that a worker starts before Oct. 1, 2019, was on Feb. 19. USCIS received more petitions than the 33,000 available H-2B visas for the second half of the fiscal year. The agency conducted a lottery to randomly select petitions.
The next filing period for H-2B petitions begins on July 3 for workers starting between Oct. 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020.
In the appropriations bill, Congress placed limits on the Trump administration’s ability to round up undocumented immigrants. It also increased the oversight of officers who carry out immigration sweeps. Moreover, Congress refused to give Trump the additional funding for enforcement personnel. Trump had requested 750 more Border Patrol agents and 2,000 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).