Omnibus Bill Clears House, Contains E-Verify, EB-5 Visa Extension Provisions

Embedded in the massive House Appropriations bill (H.R. 1105) that was approved on Wednesday by a vote of 245-178 are provisions extending the E-Verify and EB-5 investor visa programs until September 30, 2009. Both programs are set to expire on March 6, 2009.

The E-Verify program is an online system operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Participating employers can check the work status of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's I-9 form against SSA and Department of Homeland Security databases. To date, this program has been primarily voluntary. Regulations requiring that certain government contractors use E-Verify have been postponed until May 21, 2009. Additionally, a number of new employment-related bills introduced this session would mandate that all employers use E-Verify.

The EB-5 investor program awards visas to immigrants who: (1) invest in a new business or an existing one; (2) invest $500,000 or $1,000,000 of capital into that business depending upon the area in which the business is formed; (3) invest in a business that benefits the U.S. economy and creates full-time employment (directly) for at least 10 U.S. workers; and (4) participate in the management of the new business. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that it will process as many EB-5 petitions as it can before the March 6 expiration date.  In addition, unless and until Congress extends the program, the USCIS will hold any unprocessed petitions received prior to this date for an indefinite period of time while it awaits congressional action.

In addition to these provisions, the omnibus bill bestows $54.2 billion on the Labor Department, a more than $2 billion bump in funding over that sought by former President Bush.  Many domestic agencies governing labor and employment laws would receive a considerable increase in their funding under this measure.  In addition to supporting a number of job-training programs, these resources will likely be used to bolster the agencies’ enforcement powers.

The Senate is not expected to begin consideration of this bill until next week at the earliest.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.