On Friday, January 19, 2018 the federal government shut down. Congressional negotiations on a federal spending bill remain very active and are expected to continue over the weekend. Here is an overview of how a shutdown may impact immigration-related agencies.
Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but “essential” personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): USCIS is a largely a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify, so if the government shuts down, only E-Verify shuts down. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS): DOS Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection: DOS Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.
Executive Office For Immigration Review (EOIR): EOIR’s detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would therefore continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, EOIR continued to accept court filings, even in non-detained cases.
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) which handles PERM applications would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC’s web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) dockets will be placed on hold.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the USCIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.
We will provide more information regarding the federal government impact on immigration as it becomes available.