If the government shuts down what is the impact on my immigration application?
If Congress does not pass a new funding bill by Friday, January 19, 2018, the U.S. government could experience a partial shutdown, meaning everyone except for “essential” personnel will stop working. For people who have immigration petitions pending with the federal government, this raises the obvious question of what the impact could be on their petitions. Since different parts of immigration petitions are filed with different government agencies, the potential impact largely depends on which agency is processing your petition. Below we have provided a brief summary of the relevant agencies and how a government shutdown may impact them.
- U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS): This government agency grants citizenship and immigration benefits and adjudicates a wide range of petitions and applications, including applications for temporary employment, such as H-1B or L-1 and applications for green cards and asylum. USCIS’s operations are funded through the fees it collects, so the agency will likely remain open if the government shuts down. The only portion of USCIS that is not fee-funded is E-Verify, and this will shut down.
- Department of State (DOS): The Department of State is a foreign affairs agency that manages diplomatic and international relations. It is responsible for managing the U.S. consular offices around the world, the National Visa Center, the Kentucky Consular Center and the Office of Visa Services. The visa and passport processing services provided under this department are also funded by fees, so these services may not be impacted by a government shutdown, however it is unclear whether the operating status of consulates will be impacted. Impacts in consulate operations could result in a halt to all visa processing abroad, except for emergency or diplomatic situations.
- Customs & Border Patrol (CBP): This agency is responsible for facilitating trade and travel at the ports of entry into the United States (land and air) and also for keeping terrorists and harmful weapons out of the United States. CBP employees are considered essential and ports of entry will remain open, although there may be delays in getting applications (such as TNs) processed at the border.
- Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR): EOIR refers to Immigration Court and its function is to have immigration judges make decisions on immigration cases. Usually its personnel for detained cases are considered essential and it would be expected that this portion of the EOIR would continue its operations during a shutdown.
- Department of Labor, Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC): This agency adjudicates Labor Condition Applications (used primarily for H visas) and PERM Labor certification applications (used for employment-sponsored green cards). If the government shuts down, it is likely this office would shut down. This could impact anyone who needs to file a labor certification for an immigration case.
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