Congress Reaches Bipartisan Deal on 2016 Omnibus Bill

On Tuesday, December 15, 2015, Congressional leaders reached an agreement on a year-end spending and tax deal that would prevent a government shutdown and extend a series of federal programs.

The deal extends several important immigration programs, including the EB-5, Conrad 30, Special Immigrant Religious Workers, and E-Verify programs through the end of FY2016.

The bill also includes the following changes to the currently expired H-1B/L-1 fees for companies with more than 50 employees and companies where 50% or more of the employees hold H-1B or L-1 status:

  • Supplemental L-1 fees for 50/50 companies increase from $2,250 to $4,500;
  • Supplemental H-1B fees for 50/50 companies increase from $2,000 to $4,000;
  • Fees must be paid on initial petitions and extension petitions;
  • Fees are authorized for ten years, running through September 30, 2025; and
  • The funds generated by these fees will be split between the 9-11 programs and the Biometric Entry-Exit program.

The bill also makes certain changes to the H-2B program by providing:

  • Flexibility for H-2B workers in the seafood industry regarding when they can start working;
  • Use of private wage surveys;
  • Definition of “seasonal” as ten months;
  • Limitations on the Department of Labor’s ability to implement some aspects of the interim final rule; and
  • Exempting H-2B returning workers from the 66,000 annual cap for FY2016.

The bill does not contain proposals that harm, restrict, defund, or end the U.S. refugee program’s resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The bill includes the House-passed bill reforming the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which contains categorical exclusions for nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan, as well as people who travel to those countries since 2011.

The bill does not include proposals that would defund or harm so-called “sanctuary” cities.

The bill does not include proposals that would block the Administration from continuing the operation of original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or defending the Deferred Action for Parental Awareness (DAPA) or expanded DACA programs in the ongoing litigation.

The bill does not include language mandating the detention for all noncitizens who fall under enforcement Priority 1 and Priority 2 set forth in DHS Secretary Johnson’s November 20, 2014, memo.

A bill is not a law until passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed into law by the President.  Congress is expected to vote on the bill later this week.

UPDATE: Following the publication of the article above, the bill was passed by both the House and Senate, and signed into law.

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