• Congress Passes FY 2019 Spending Bill Reauthorizing Key Immigration Programs, Limited H-2B Cap Relief
  • February 15, 2019
  • Law Firm: - Office
  • At a glance

    • The bill funds the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and other agencies through FY 2019.
    • The bill reauthorizes E-Verify, the EB-5 Regional Center program and other expiring immigration programs through September 30, 2019. It also provides limited cap relief for the H-2B program.
    • The President is expected to sign the bill, but plans to declare a national emergency in order to fund a border wall.

    A closer look

    An appropriations bill passed last night by Congress will fund the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and other federal agencies through Fiscal Year 2019, averting another partial government shutdown. The spending measure also extends four immigration programs through September 30, 2019, and provides limited cap relief for the H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker program for this fiscal year only. It also includes $1.375 billion for additional fencing and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, far less than the $5.7 billion sought by President Trump.

    The bill will now go to the President for signature. He is expected to sign the measure Friday morning, but has said that he will also declare a national emergency in order to fund construction of the border wall. Such an action is likely to be challenged in Congress and the courts.

    Reauthorization of expiring programs

    E-Verify, the Conrad 30 waiver program for foreign medical graduates working in underserved areas, and the special immigrant non-minister religious worker program were extended without changes through the end of this fiscal year.

    The EB-5 Regional Center program for foreign investors was also reauthorized without legislative changes through September 30, 2019. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security is planning to propose a regulation that would significantly increase investment minimums for the entire EB-5 program and would give U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services more authority over it.

    H-2B cap relief

    The spending bill authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to increase the 66,000 H-2B cap for FY 2019 after consulting with the Department of Labor and if DHS determines that there are not enough willing, qualified and available U.S. workers to meet the needs of American businesses for temporary non-agricultural work this fiscal year. However, the cap cannot be increased by more than the highest number of H-2B workers who participated in the now-expired H-2B returning worker cap exemption in a year in which that exemption was in place.