As the clock ticks down to midnight on October 1, the United States government faces the possibility of a shutdown if Congress fails to reach an agreement on several appropriations bills or a short-term spending measure. The shutdown would impact all government agencies to varying degrees, including immigration services. This article summarizes how a government shutdown could affect immigration functions and what steps you can take to navigate these uncertain times.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
USCIS would continue processing visa petitions during a government shutdown, because their funding comes mostly from fees and not Congressional funding. However, the shutdown could cause issues and delays, especially if the shutdown persists. USCIS petitions that require action from the DOL, such as labor condition applications, would be directly affected. This could affect individuals filing for H‑1B, H‑1B1, and E‑3 visas, including extensions of status and changes of employers in these categories. USCIS would continue to accept and process other immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions, including adjustment of status applications for permanent residency (“green cards”).
Department of Labor
The DOL relies on government funding for its operations. This means that if a government shutdown occurs, the Department of Labor (DOL) would temporarily halt its immigration functions. The DOL Specifically, the DOL's Office of Foreign Labor Certification would stop accepting and processing immigration-related applications. This includes essential processes like PERM labor certification applications, labor condition applications (“LCAs”), applications for prevailing wage determinations, and temporary employment certifications. This interruption could significantly impact employers and individuals seeking both temporary and permanent employment-based visas.
The State Department would continue to process visa stamps and issue U.S. passports, as long as funds remain available. However, if other government agencies that support consular processing are unable to function during a shutdown, there could be potential disruptions.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
ICE would continue its operations during a government shutdown. This includes the maintenance of ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which would operate as usual.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
CBP ports of entry at the US border and airports would remain operational during a government shutdown. Nonetheless, foreign nationals could encounter delays in their entry and immigration processes.
E-Verify and Other Programs
Several critical immigration-related programs would be temporarily unavailable until Congress reauthorizes them, such as E-Verify. If a shutdown occurs, employers would be unable to enroll in E‑Verify, access or create E-Verify cases, or resolve tentative non-confirmations. It's important to note that employers would not be penalized for E-Verify-related delays caused by the shutdown. Nevertheless, they would still be required to fulfill Form I-9 obligations and complete E-Verify cases once the system becomes available again.
Other programs, such as the Conrad 30 waiver for J-1 physicians and the Special Immigrant Religious Workers program, would also be on hold until reauthorization occurs.
A government shutdown could have significant implications for various immigration services, particularly those requiring a certification or application by the Department of Labor. While there's a chance that Congress could pass an appropriations bill or a stopgap spending measure before September 30, employers and individuals with time-sensitive DOL filings should collaborate with World One Law Group immigration attorneys to submit their applications before the looming deadline.
We are closely monitoring developments in Congress and will keep you updated as new information becomes available. Your immigration journey is important to us, and we are here to guide you through any challenges that may arise during this uncertain period. Stay informed, stay prepared, and let us be your trusted partner in navigating the ever-changing landscape of U.S. immigration.
For personalized guidance and assistance with your immigration matters, please don't hesitate to reach out to [email protected]. Your peace of mind is our priority.