Immigration-Related Services May Be Reduced in Federal Government Shutdown

We are still awaiting an announcement from Washington, D.C. as to whether a budget compromise has been reached to fund ongoing federal government operations. As you know, if an agreement is not reached by midnight, April 8, the federal government will “shut down” all non-essential services.  

We strongly encourage all employers and foreign nationals with international travel plans to consider the implications of departing the U.S. to apply for new visas. Although the government has not confirmed which agencies will be affected, we expect the following to occur:

  • The U.S. Department of State (DOS), largely following procedures from the 1995 shutdown, will limit visa issuance to important diplomatic visas and life-threatening emergencies. This will likely cause the greatest disruption for foreign nationals who have previously scheduled business or personal travel overseas and require a new visa stamp in their passports in order to return to the U.S. The DOS will also stop issuing U.S. passports.
  • Certain agencies not funded by filing fees, such as the U.S. Department of Labor and the DOS, will likely experience a dramatic reduction in staffing. We believe the Department of Labor’s adjudication of labor condition applications, required for new H-1B filings and PERM labor certification applications (including prevailing wage requests), will most likely not be processed during a government shutdown. We do not know whether United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be able continue to process applications at its Service Centers and local offices—certain agency officials have stated unofficially that they expect adjudicatory functions to proceed, while some USCIS local offices are making plans for a shutdown of case processing.
  • Government agencies responsible for U.S. security such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) will likely continue to function. However, some operations and availability for processing border applications may be impacted and delays at the border should be expected, particularly for TN/L-1 applications at the Canadian border.

We will continue to monitor the situation and provide further information once decisions have been made. In the interim, employers and foreign nationals should consider very carefully whether to depart the U.S. in the next several days in the event of a government shutdown. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.