As negotiations in Congress continue towards resolving the shutdown of the federal government, individuals and companies that interact with the various federal agencies that administer immigration programs are naturally wondering how they might be affected. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued information about its operations, but until we hear from other agencies, we can look to prior shutdowns in 2011 and 2013 to better understand what to expect.
As a general matter, only “essential” employees will continue to work until funding is restored. The following is what we anticipate with respect to the various agencies Hunton & Williams deals with on behalf of our clients:
- USCIS: Because USCIS is funded by application fees instead of taxpayer funds, operations will continue as usual. Individuals should attend scheduled appointments, and applications and petitions will continue to be processed as usual, including DACA renewal applications. Certain programs will be suspended until funding resumes, including E-Verify. E-Verify applications should be submitted as soon as possible once federal funding is restored.
- Department of Labor (DOL): Because DOL applications are not funded by user fees, LCA and PERM processing will be unavailable during the shutdown. This has a direct impact on companies that are attempting to meet PERM filing deadlines. H-1B extensions and portability cases, and E-3 visa applications cannot proceed until LCA processing resumes. If the shutdown continues, H-1B cap petitions could be affected.
- Department of State (DOS): Passport and visa processing are funded by application fees, and therefore should not be affected, at least initially. However, the facilities and personnel needed to maintain passport and consular operations are impacted by the lack of federal funds. If the shutdown continues for more than a few weeks, we will likely see a degradation of US passport and consular visa processing. Applicants for nonimmigrant and immigrant visas at US embassies and consulates abroad should attend their appointments as schedueld.
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Inspections at airports and other ports of entry will not be affected. However, processing of applications by Canadian citizens under NAFTA may be delayed or interrupted. Those seeking to submit TN or L-1 petitions at ports of entry should allot additional time for their interviews.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): It will be business-as-usual with regard to I-9 investigations and related law enforcement actions. Student and Exchange Visitor programs (i.e., F-1 and J-1 under SEVIS) are also unaffected because they are funded by application fees
If the current shutdown continues, we will provide updates as further information becomes available. Please contact one of our attorneys if you are concerned about how the government shutdown may impact you or your company.