As the U.S. Government shutdown begins, many are left wondering about how such a shutdown may impact immigration-related agencies. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is impacted the most. Typically, if a U.S. government shuts down for budgetary reasons, all but essential personnel are furloughed (temporarily laid off). Below is a list of the most common immigration agencies and their expected level of operation during the current U.S. government shutdown.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Because USCIS is a fee-funded agency, with the exception of E-Verify, it should be unaffected by the government shut down. E-Verify, an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, will not be operating. Fee-funded agencies are mostly self-funded, so they are not impacted by the federal government’s budget process.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS)
The DOS will continue to process U.S. visa applications. Like USCIS, visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted substantially. If, however, visa operations are affected because of a prolonged shut down, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
ICE, the agency that handles immigration enforcement and removal operations, will also continue operating. ICE attorneys will likely focus on the detained docket throughout the shutdown. Most employees of CPB, including inspection and law enforcement personnel, are considered “essential” and will continue to work.
The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR)
EOIR, which conducts immigration court proceedings, appellate reviews and administrative hearings, will likely remain in operation only as it relates to the review and processing of its detained docket.
The Department of Labor (DOL)
The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC), a division of the DOL and a U.S. department responsible for promoting the welfare of workers, job seekers and retirees, has stopped processing all applications. Personnel will not be available to respond to inquiries. OFLC’s web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, are also inaccessible, and BALCA (PERM appeals) dockets will be placed on hold. As a result, no PERMs, labor condition applications (LCA), prevailing wage requests or temporary LCAs will be processed or accepted while operations are suspended.