The US government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on November 17, 2023. If Congress fails to pass a new CR or spending bills by that date, the government will shut down. A government shutdown can have a significant impact on immigration services. Here is an overview of what to expect:
Department of Homeland Security (DHS):
The DHS is responsible for a wide range of immigration-related functions, including border security, immigration enforcement, and citizenship and immigration services. During a government shutdown, DHS will continue to operate its essential functions, such as border security and immigration enforcement but the workers will not be receiving any pay. However, some non-essential functions, such as processing certain immigration applications and petitions, may be suspended.
For more detailed information about the impact of a government shutdown on DHS, please visit https://www.dhs.gov/news/2023/09/28/fact-sheet-impact-government-shutdown-dhs-workforce.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
USCIS is a fee-funded agency, so it is generally business as usual during a government shutdown. This means that all petitions filed with USCIS will be processed, including Form I-129 for H-1B, L-1, E-2 and O-1 status, Form I-140 (the employer files) and I-130 (the family sponsor files) immigrant visa petitions, Form I-129F fiance visa petition, Form I-485 application to adjust status to legal permanent residency (the green card), Form I-765 for employment authorization (EAD) and Form I-131 request for advance parole travel permission while the I-485 is pending. However, programs that receive appropriated funds, such as E-Verify and the Conrad 30 J-1 doctors program, may be suspended or otherwise impacted.
Department of State (DOS):
Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and thus are not normally impacted by a lapse in appropriations. However, if there are insufficient fees to support operations at a particular post, DOS may only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP):
CBP inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential,” so ports of entry will remain open and processing of passengers will continue. However, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):
ICE enforcement and removal operations would continue, and ICE attorneys would typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices would be unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.
Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
Immigration court cases on the detained docket will proceed during a government shutdown, but non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date. Courts with detained dockets would receive all filings but would only process those involving detained dockets. Courts with only non-detained dockets would not be open and would not accept filings.
Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC):
The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC’s web-based system FLAG for PERM labor certifications, Labor Condition Applications for H-1B petitions and prevailing wage determinations for PERM cases, H-1B and H-2Bs would be inaccessible and BALCA dockets would be placed on hold.
Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman:
The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.
Congressional Constituent Services:
Some congressional offices may be closed during a government shutdown. Please contact the individual office for more information.
What can you do to prepare for a government shutdown?
If the government shuts down, it is important to stay informed about the latest developments and to contact your immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns.
Here are some tips for immigration applicants and practitioners:
- Stay informed about the latest developments. Monitor USCIS and other government websites for updates on the status of operations during a shutdown.
- Contact your immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns. Your attorney can advise you on how to proceed with your immigration case in the event of a shutdown.
- Be prepared for delays. If the government shuts down, there may be delays in the processing of immigration applications and petitions.
- Be patient and flexible. Government shutdowns can be stressful, but it is important to be patient and flexible during this time.