As you are aware, on Friday, January 20, 2018, Congress failed to pass a budget, shutting down the federal government except for certain “essential” functions. Our clients are asking us what impact this will have on the U.S. immigration system. What follows is a break-down of the effect of the shutdown on affiliated agencies.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Because it is a fee-funded agency USCIS will for the most part continue to process cases. Clients needing initial adjudication of applications (extensions of stay, or changes of employer) will likely not be affected. In prior government shutdowns, USCIS has operated normally even while the rest of the U.S. federal government has been shut down. It is possible, but not likely, that the current administration could issue a different legal interpretation, however.
There are four immigration programs that are tied directly to government funding bills that WILL expire or suspend operations. These include:
- EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program Regional centers are public or private economic operations in the U.S. that promote economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program, which as a result of the shutdown is suspended until further funding is approved. Non-regional center cases will continue to be accepted.
- E-Verify This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U. S. and will be unavailable until the government reopens it. Affected employers will need to run E-Verify checks after the shutdown for any new hires, since workers can still be hired and I-9’s completed in the interim.
- Conrad 30 J-1 Doctors This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the U.S.; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
- Non-minister Religious Workers This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust status in the U.S. to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.
U.S. Department of Labor
The DOL will not function during the government shut-down. As a result, neither the LCA nor the PERM system will be available. New cases cannot be filed and pending cases will not be reviewed. This will have an impact on H-1B filings because LCA’s are a prerequisite. In the past the DOL has published guidance about how to file applications once the government reopens, particularly if there were deadlines falling in the weeks after the shutdown.
U.S. Department of State
Visa and passport filings at the DOS are fee-funded and technically should not be impacted, but a shutdown could delay adjudications. In the past, American citizen services were considered “essential.” Visa issuance and consular interviews could be suspended, however, with limited exceptions. We recommend that clients who need renewed visas either suspend travel outside the U.S. or be prepared for increased delays.