Obama Extends Critical Immigration Programs

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Critical EB-5 Regional Center, E-Verify, and Physician Conrad 30
Programs Reauthorized Until September 30, 2015 -
Foreign Physicians Face New Licensure Hurdles
On September 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law S. 3245, which provides a three-year reauthorization until September 30, 2015 of four immigration programs administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS): the EB-5 Regional Center Program; the E-Verify Program; the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Program; and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program. This bill was introduced by Senator Leahy (D-VT) on May 24, 2012, and was passed unanimously by the Senate on August 2, 2012 and by the House of Representatives with a vote of 412-3 on September 13, 2012.

More Information about EB-5 Visa Program

The EB-5 visa program was created as a way to attract foreign investment to U.S. businesses. Qualified individuals may be eligible for a two-year conditional lawful permanent resident (LPR) status on the basis of their capital investment in a qualified commercial enterprise, or alternatively, as an investor in a “Regional Center”. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides an online list of Regional Centers. The condition on LPR status may be removed if the investor fulfills the requisite EB-5 requirements.

Typically, the standard individual capital investment requirement for an EB-5 investor is $1 million, or $500,000 in some specially designated areas, and the investment must lead to the creation or preservation of 10 jobs. The Regional Center investment option allows for a less restrictive job creation requirement based upon the creation of “indirect” and “direct” jobs. Additional information on the EB-5 Program may be found at the USCIS website.

The EB-5 Program has experienced increased popularity with U.S. business projects in need of financing as well as with foreign investors seeking greater opportunity and stability for themselves and their families. According to the Association to Invest In the USA (IIUSA), it is estimated that when fully utilized, the EB-5 Program will contribute over $2 billion in foreign direct investment to the U.S. economy annually and will create and/or preserve a minimum of 40,000+ jobs for U.S. workers each year, all at no cost to the American taxpayer.

E-Verify Program

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the work eligibility of their employees in the U.S. E-Verify is offered to employers on a voluntary basis nationally (except as to certain federal contractors), but many states have passed legislation mandating that at least some employers there register for and use the program. For example, the State of Arizona mandates that all employers verify their employees’ legal right to work in the state through E-Verify. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the State of Arizona’s mandate that employers in the state use E-Verify. We expect copycat legislation regarding a mandate in Texas to be introduced in the next state legislative session starting in 2013.

Conrad 30

The Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver program allows for a waiver of the J-1 visa foreign residence requirement for physicians willing to work for three years in a designated health professional shortage area (HPSA) or medically underserved area (MUA). For more information on the Texas Conrad 30 J-1 Waiver Program, please visit https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chpr/j1info.shtm. This program has filled critical physician shortages in the state.

Medical Licensure of Foreign Physicians

On September 1, 2012, the Texas Medical Board started to implement changes in physician licensure in the state under amendments made by SB. 189 to the Texas Occupations Code. This law requires all international medical graduates (except U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents) to serve three years in an underserved area of Texas or at an institution that has a graduate medical education program to be eligible to apply for a medical license. It does not apply to physicians who either practiced medicine in Texas prior to September 1, 2012 for at least one year under a postgraduate training permit, temporary license, or limited license; or who submitted an initial application for full licensure prior to September 1, 2012. It will, however, place Texas at a competitive disadvantage as to those foreign physicians holding H-1B or O-1 status (but no Texas medical license), for example, because most other states would not force them to agree to practice for three years in an underserved area to obtain state licensure. More information and relevant forms can be found at the Texas Medical Board website.

For more information on any of these extended programs, please contact one of our immigration attorneys. For a description of Cox Smith's Immigration & International Trade Practice Group and a full list of attorneys, click here