U.S. Government Shutdown: How Does It Affect Immigration Services?

As largely feared by many Americans, an official partial shutdown of the U.S. government commenced October 1, 2013. The shutdown became official as the U.S. Senate refused to pass two House of Representative passed bills that tied the funding of the government to funding or delaying the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). As the shutdown takes effect, all “non-essential” federal programs and services are suspended.

The shutdown’s effect on immigration services will be limited initially but may deepen if the shutdown continues. Here is how the shutdown will affect various immigration-related services:

  • USCIS: The shutdown should not affect USCIS, for the most part, as the agency is largely funded by user fees. As such, there should be minimal effects on petition filing or adjudications. E-Verify, however, is currently unavailable.
  • Department of Labor: The Office of Foreign Labor Certifications employees will be placed in furlough status as they are considered “non-essential”. The DOL had announced that in the event of a shutdown, OFLC will not accept or process applications or related materials, which includes Labor Conditions Applications (LCAs), Applications for Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs), Applications for Temporary Employment Certification and Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. Additionally, the DOL reported that associated websites would also become static.
  • Department of State: The DOS announced that most consular functions will continue normally for the time being. They will not predict, however, how long this can continue.
  • ICE: Detention and enforcement operations will continue but ICE trial attorney will only work on detained dockets during a shutdown.
  • EOIR: The EOIR announced that court functions that support the detained caseload will continue as it is considered essential. Other functions, however, will be suspended. The BIA will process emergency stay requests and where the alien is detained, including appeals, motions, federal court remands and bonds.
  • CBP: 88% of CBP employees will remain on the job. Functions at the ports of entries and airports should remain open. Be prepared, however, for delays in the case of staff readjustments.

We at VisaPro are closely monitoring the developments and will keep our readers informed as more information becomes available in this matter.

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