Without Congressional agreement to avoid a lapse in appropriations by midnight on September 30th, certain federal departments and agencies will suspend operations for all but “essential” government functions.
Government departments and agencies have begun to identify exactly what the shutdown means for their operations and the services they provide. Because most petitions and applications for immigration benefits are fee-based filings that do not rely on Federal Government appropriations, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and U.S. Department of State activities related to the adjudication of immigration benefits will likely continue uninterrupted through a government shutdown. Accordingly, petitioners and applicants may still submit their filings, and CIS adjudicators would continue to adjudicate petitions and applications. Likewise, visa applicants at U.S. consular posts should be able to continue filing visa applications and attending their interview appointments.
CIS also operates the non-fee-based E-Verify program. When the Government shut down in 2013, the E-Verify database was not available, and employees were not able to resolve tentative non-confirmations. The CIS did instruct employers not to take any adverse action against employees unable to resolve tentative non-confirmations due to the Government shutdown.
Unlike the CIS, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) depends on Federal Government appropriations to adjudicate applications. Accordingly, in the event of a Government shutdown, the DOL would likely suspend adjudication of Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Labor Condition Applications (LCAs), and PERM Labor Certification Applications as it did last Government shutdown. It is also likely that access to online systems used to file these applications will be suspended during the shutdown.
While CIS adjudications are not directly impacted by a Government shutdown, should a shutdown last more than a day or two, employers may be unable to file certain applications with CIS, such as H-1B petitions that must be filed with a certified LCA from the DOL. Accordingly, employers may expect delays in the ability to file certain petitions with CIS, and may also expect delays in adjudications by CIS should there be a rush of filings immediately after a shutdown is over. The CIS is already behind posted adjudication times for many types of filings, so additional delays due to a Government shutdown could further lengthen the wait for certain benefits.