Congress is currently at a budget standoff that threatens to shut down the federal government for the second time in two years, effective September 30, 2015 at midnight, the start of the new fiscal year. As with the last government shutdown on October 1, 2013, it is expected that certain fee-based, essential immigration functions will continue, but may experience delays.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will likely continue to process applications and petitions, as these operations are fee-based. Although there is a possibility for delays or an increase in processing times, it is expected that the agency will process cases in the usual fashion.
The USCIS website, however, which allows employers and individuals to track the status of their cases, will likely be inoperable. In addition, the E-Verify system will also likely be taken offline during a shutdown. In spite of a potential shutdown, employers will still remain subject to their I-9 obligations.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) will continue to inspect and admit international travelers at the U.S. ports of entry.
U.S. Department of Labor
In the event of a shutdown, U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will suspend operations. This is particularly impactful in the Labor Condition Application (LCA) and PERM contexts. OFLC's web site, including the iCERT Portal and PERM Online System, will not process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts. In addition, the agency will not process paper-filed PERMs or audit responses.
Employers with concerns about these deadline-specific functions should consult their Seyfarth Shaw immigration attorney with questions about proper maintenance of status and disruption of immigration processes during these uncertain times.
U.S. Department of State
It is likely that U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) visa issuance will continue. Consular operations are likely to remain fully operational as long as sufficient fees exist to support operations. However, if a passport agency is located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations, that facility may become unsupported.