With the U.S. government shutdown now over for the time being, those government agencies involved with immigration are now getting back to work. Several immigration-related functions were disrupted during the government shutdown. This included the Department of Labor, parts of USCIS and the EOIR. These agencies are now up and running, with reports from the Department of Labor that both the iCERT system and the PERM system have been restored as of late this morning.
Highlights include the following:
- Department of Labor: Employees at the Department of Labor returned to work on October 17. As outlined above, the iCERT system for labor condition applications and the PERM system were recently restored late morning on October 18 and are now running. Reports indicate that labor condition applications and prevailing wages are being processed by the Department of Labor. However, due to the very high volume with the system today, users are reporting very slow service with the system. Additionally, the Department of Labor has not provided any updates on the handling of due dates on PERM applications that may been missed during the shutdown, PERM audit responses, PERM sponsorship e-mails and other filing issues with the system being down from October 1 until October 18. As soon as the Department of Labor issues a report on these and other issues, we will send out a further update.
- USCIS: Although USCIS remained open during the shutdown because it is funded by user fees, USCIS did not accept and returned H-1B petitions that were filed during the shutdown period because they lacked certified LCAs. To date, USCIS has remained silent regarding how it will handle those H-1B petitions filed and returned and those that will be filed late due to the unavailability of certified LCAs based on the government shutdown. It is anticipated that USCIS will accept and process such H-1B petitions under its "nunc pro tunc" procedures. Again, as soon as additional details are released by USCIS, we will provide a further update. As soon as the shutdown was over, USCIS very quickly restored the E-Verify system and communicated advice to employers on the system and how to handle. Please see the following legal update "E-Verify Now Available as Government Reopens" for additional details on the E-Verify process. Finally, the USCIS Ombudsman office is back open and the case assistance web page was restored on October 17.
- EOIR, BIA and OCAHO: These immigration agencies have all returned to normal operations as of October 18.
- Department of State: DOS continued to process passport applications and provide U.S. citizen services during the shutdown. Additionally, U.S. embassies and consulates continued to provide services during the shutdown.
- Customs and Border Protection: This agency was essential and its workers continued to work during the days of the shutdown.
As noted above, as additional information becomes available regarding the handling of PERM and other applications with the Department of Labor, along with any additional information from USCIS about H-1B petitions, we will keep you updated.