Impact of Potential Government Shutdown on U.S. Immigration Services

Following the passage of several continuing resolutions, Congress now has until midnight tonight (January 19, 2018) to pass a spending bill or another continuing resolution to keep the Federal government funded.  If Congress is not able to come to an agreement this would result in a government shutdown that would impact several government agencies responsible for administering parts of various immigration and visa programs.  While the situation continues to develop, we outline below the impact of a government shutdown on the various Federal immigration functions should Congress fail to take action prior to the deadline:

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

Because USCIS is a fee-funded agency it should continue to process immigration applications and petitions in the event of a shutdown.  It is possible that processing delays could occur in light of other ancillary government functions being suspended. In addition, petitions that rely on documentation from the DOL (including H-1Bs, E-3s, and H-1B1s) may be impacted as these cannot be filed until the DOL resumes processing of those documents.

The Department of Labor (DOL)

The DOL Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is responsible for issuing Prevailing Wage Determinations (PWDs) and Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) in connection with PERM labor certifications, H-1B, H-1B1, E-2, H-2B/H-2A visa petitions. The online portals (iCert and PERM websites) through which these filings are made would be taken offline, such that no PWDs, LCAs, or PERM applications can be filed online or processed during a shutdown. In addition, The Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals (BALCA) dockets would be placed on hold.

The Department of State (DOS)

The DOS visa and passport services are fee-funded and are expected to continue operations, at least in the short term while funding remains available. In the event of a protracted shutdown, certain services may slow or be suspended in order to conserve funds and consular posts may only process diplomatic visas and emergency visa requests.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Because border inspection and law enforcement are considered “essential” government functions, CBP will continue to process individuals through ports of entry, though staffing may be reduced, resulting in delays. While it’s likely that CBP will continue to process Canadian TN and L-1 border applications, there may also be extended wait times as a result of staffing reductions during the shutdown.

Other Government Agencies and Services

SAVE System - This database will remain operational during a shutdown and is used by various government agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to verify an applicant’s immigration status.

Social Security Administration (SSA) -The SSA will not process applications for new or replacement Social Security Numbers (SSNs) during the shutdown, which may impact access to certain services (such as banking services and drivers licenses) that require SSNs.

USCIS Ombudsman - While USCIS in general will remain open, the ombudsman’s office will close and will not accept any online inquiries.

In addition, several immigration programs are reliant upon the federal funding bill in order to be extended into the future such that if a compromise is not reached or if the new bill does not contain extensions of these programs, the following immigration programs will expire at midnight tonight:

EB-5 Regional Center Program: The government would cease to accepting filings under the EB-5 Regional Center program (but would continue to accept non-regional center filings).

E-Verify: E-Verify users will be unable to submit employment verification queries or resolve tentative nonconfirmations (TNCs).

Conrad 30 Waivers For Foreign Medical Graduates and Non-Minister Religious Worker Special Immigrant Visas: The government would cease accepting applications under both these programs.