Congress gave final approval last Friday to a $1.1-trillion funding bill, keeping the government running through September 30, 2016 (the end of the fiscal year). Tucked into the law is a provision to extend a key part of the EB-5 investment immigration scheme. The provision extends the pilot program for regional centers through September 30 with no changes. That pilot program allows investors seeking green cards to invest a minimum $500,000 into private “regional centers,” where the requirement to create 10 jobs for U.S. workers can be met through “indirect” jobs rather than jobs on the company payroll.
The IIUSA EB-5 trade association called the extension better than a lapse in the program but lamented the missed opportunity to “pass a long-term reauthorization and reform package.” One proposed reform package would have required a higher minimum investment amount for all EB-5 investors and redefined targeted employment areas where the minimum $500,000 can be made, among other things.
The legislation also included sections dealing with H-1B and L-1 filing fees, the Conrad 30 international medical graduate program, and the visa waiver program.
The talks between congressional leaders and the White House, conducted largely in secret, reportedly established a new model for conducting business under Ryan’s tenure. The top four congressional leaders never met as a group. Instead, work was outsourced to committee leaders, part of an attempt by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) to decentralize power and involve more lawmakers in decision-making. While the legislation averted a government shutdown, it’s not clear whether this new model will be a way to accomplish longer-term EB-5 reauthorization and reform, or to make progress on other immigration legislation.