Republican leaders and both branches of Congress failed Friday to come to a long-term agreement to provide fiscal year funding for the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) and provide confidence that a DHS shutdown will be avoided. A one-week funding extension was passed, and now DHS is poised to run out of money at midnight on March 6th. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House expressed displeasure with the bill. Republicans want the funding legislation to address President Obama’s recent immigration related executive action and Democrats want a bill that will fully fund DHS through the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2015). US Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is one of the many agencies under the umbrella of the DHS.
USCIS grants affirmative immigration benefits based on user fees. As discussed in our alert, as a fee-funded agency, USCIS will be minimally impacted by any “shut down”. However, in previous government shut downs, such as the one in late 2013, we observed a general slowdown in petition and application processing times.
Unlike in the full government shut down of 2013, non-DHS agencies that process other types of immigration related applications and identity documents, such as the Department of Labor, Department of State, and the Social Security Administration, will continue operating under fully funded budgets. We therefore do not expect any impact on the processing times for H-1B Labor Condition Applications, PERM Labor Certifications or visa applications at U.S. Embassies or Consulates abroad regardless of what happens with DHS funding bills.
Today’s failure to pass a long-term bill in the House only serves to heighten funding uncertainty for DHS. If sticking points in the House involve Obama’s immigration related executive action, surely it is time for Congress to revisit legislative immigration reform.