Between President Obama’s recent executive actions and possible legislation, 2015 has potential to become an important year for immigration policy. The following summarizes key upcoming dates for executive action and statutory deadlines for Congress, which could provide an opportunities for additional action and changes in immigration law or policy.
Last week, US District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a temporary injunction against the new deferred action programs, which prevented the Obama Administration from implementing the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) expansion as scheduled. The Justice Department has filed a stay that would allow implementation of the executive actions while appeals play out. An asterix marks dates that are subject to change based on the ongoing legal challenge.
*February 18, 2015: Original date for expanded DACA filing. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it would begin to accept applications for the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions, more than 200,000 individuals who were previously disqualified due to their age may now be eligible. Implementation of the DACA expansion is now on hold pending resolution of the legal challenge.
February 27, 2015: DHS funding expires. In December, Republicans supported funding DHS for just three months to create an opportunity to overturn President Obama’s executive actions. In January, the House passed a funding bill for DHS that would prevent recent and previous actions. That measure is now before the Senate. If Congress and the president do not agree on legislation by February 27, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will lose funding. BPC recently explored what would happen under a DHS shutdown.
April 1, 2015: H-1B applications open for FY 2016. Traditionally, USCIS begins accepting applications for the H-1B visa for the following fiscal year on the first business day in April. For each of the past two fiscal years (FY 2014 and FY 2015), the statutory cap on H-1B visas was reached within a week.
*Mid-to late May 2015: DAPA applications scheduled to open. USCIS will begin to accept applications for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Under the program, up to 3.9 million unauthorized immigrants could be eligible for work authorization and relief from deportation. As is the case with the DACA expansion, the DAPA timetable now depends on the ongoing legal challenge.
September 30, 2015: Expiration of EB-5 Regional Center Program, Special Immigrant Religious Worker Program, and Conrad 30 Program. At the end of FY 2015, three current legal permanent immigration categories are scheduled to expire:
- EB-5 visas grant green cards to individuals who make investments over $1 million (or 500,000 in high unemployment or rural areas) that create or preserve at least 10 jobs. The Regional Center program is a more flexible subset of the EB-5 visa, created in 1992 to make requirements more flexible in response to low demand. Use of the EB-5 program has increased exponentially in recent years, from 806 in FY 2007 to 8,543 in FY 2013.
- The Non-Minister Special Immigrant Religious Worker Program, a subcategory of the employment-based fourth preference category, applies religious vocations, such as nuns, monks, sisters, missionaries, and counselors.
- The Conrad 30 Waiver program waives the requirement that international medical students on J-1 visas must return to their home country for two years before re-entering the United States. In exchange, the individual must practice in an underserved area for at least three years before applying for a green card or another temporary status. The SKILLS Visa Act proposed creating a demand-based cap for the Conrad 30 program.
- All three programs were last reauthorized in the same bill at the end of FY 2012.
September 30, 2015: End of the fiscal year. Congress and the president must agree on new appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016 to fund the federal government, including key immigration programs and agencies in the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Justice, Labor and Health and Human Services.
December 30, 2015: Afghan and Iraqi SIV Program Expires. This program allows Iraqis and Afghans who served as translators or interpreters for the U.S. government to apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card) in the United States.
Sara Mahoney contributed to this post.