Last week, Congress passed a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown and fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. This spending bill also contained several provisions which impact immigration law and policy.
In particular, the spending bill funds the Executive Office for Immigration Review, or EOIR, an office within the Department of Justice that administers the nation’s immigration court system. The recently passed bill provides funding for EOIR to hire approximately 55 new immigration judges. Funding for new immigration judges was desperately needed, as significant backlogs currently exist across the country’s immigration courts.
In addition, the spending bill incorporates the Visa Wavier Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. This bill eliminates the Visa Waiver Program for individuals who live in Visa Waiver Program countries but are also nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan. This ban also includes individuals who have traveled to these countries in the recent past. The Visa Waiver Program authorizes citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for 90 days or less without first obtaining a visa. At present there are 38 countries that are designated as Visa Wavier Program countries.
Lastly, the spending bill modified the H-2B visa program for seasonal and temporary workers. Now, a foreign H-2B worker who has been issued an H-2B cap number in the past 3 years can return to their position in the United States without being issued a new cap number. The H-2B cap is currently set at 66,000 visas.