Yesterday, the House passed a measure (H.R. 1127) which would extend special religious worker and rural doctor visa programs until the end of fiscal year 2009. Both programs were set to expire tomorrow (March 6) with the rest of the continuing resolution package.
The non-ministerial religious worker program enables up to 5,000 religious workers--missionaries, counselors, teachers, instructors, etc--to enter the United States each year.
The rural doctor program waives regular J-1 visa requirements, allowing foreign-born graduates of U.S. medical schools to work beyond two-years after graduation if they work in underserved rural areas of the United States (the J-1 visa requires that foreign-born medical school graduates leave the U.S. within two years after graduation).
Neither of these bills are controversial and received broad bi-partisan support. However, advocates attempts at extending the programs for five years failed due to the broader fight over immigration and the extension of the E-Verify/Basic Pilot program.