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Last week, Congress passed S. 3245, a bill which extended four important immigration programs for another three years: The Conrad 30 J-1 waiver program, the EB-5 immigrant investor visa, the E-Verify program, and the R-1 religious worker immigrant visa category. The bill had already passed in the Senate and was passed by a voice vote in the House of Representatives on September 13. President Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.

The Conrad 30 J-1 Waiver program allows medical doctors in J-1 status to apply for a waiver for the 2-year home residence requirement upon completion of the J-1 exchange visitor program. Conrad 30 was implemented to address the shortage of qualified doctors in certain areas. Certain doctors who work in areas designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area, Medically Underserved Area, or Medically Underserved Population may be eligible for waivers.

The EB-5 investor visa category is available to foreign nationals who invest at least $1,000,000 in a U.S. commercial enterprise, or $500,000 in a Regional Center or Targeted Employment Area. The purpose of the EB-5 program is to create U.S. jobs. Like the other programs, this important program has been extended since its inception because of its success and job creation potential.

E-Verify is a program that is voluntary for most employers and allows employers to verify the work authorization of employees. Immigration compliance is an important matter, with significant implications. The decision to enroll in E-Verify is therefore an important one, though it should not be undertaken without first seeking the advice of immigration counsel.

Finally, the R-1 visa category is available to foreign nationals who work in a professional capacity for a religious organization.