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Jewish Journal

Obama enacts visa program for religious workers

JTA

October 1, 2012 | 10:19 am

President Barack Obama at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 30. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama at Desert Pines High School in Las Vegas, Nev., on Sept. 30. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama enacted a three-year extension to a visa program for religious workers.

Obama on Sept. 28 signed the law, passed by Congress with overwhelming margins earlier in September, extending the Special Immigrant Non-Minister Religious Worker Program until Sept. 30, 2015.

The legislation, first passed in 1990, has a built-in sunset provision and has been reauthorized seven times.

The law, which is particularly important to small Jewish communities in remote areas, makes available up to 5,000 permanent immigrant visas each year for religious workers of various denominations.

The small Jewish communities often find it difficult to fill positions and rely on the visas to bring in rabbis, cantors, kosher butchers, Hebrew school teachers and other religious workers.

The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)  praised the bill’s passage and its enactment, with special praise for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who led sponsorship.

“This is an important step in ensuring that the Jewish community can keep the dedicated and experienced teachers and other foreign religious workers on whom we rely,” said Mark Hetfield, the president of HIAS.

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