Effect of Government Shutdown on Immigration


The ripples of the U.S. government shutdown that began on Tuesday are being felt all across the country. Fortunately, because immigration agencies are largely self-funded and because of the national security issues involved, the majority of immigration processes will continue to operate.  There will, however, be some significant delays involved.  Below is a list of the various immigration agencies and the effect they will experience by the government shutdown:

Department of Homeland Security (DHS):  DHS is the branch of government that includes U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Coast Guard.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):  USCIS is the branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that processes immigration benefits applications.  USCIS is mostly self-funded by application fees, and so it will continue to operate.  However, new H-1B filings are expected to be delayed.  Additionally, E-Verify will be unavailable.  Please see our October 1 article for more details on E-Verify procedures during the shutdown.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):  ICE is the agency responsible for enforcement of immigration laws.  ICE will also continue to be operational.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP):  CBP is also a faction of DHS and is responsible for border operations.  The government shutdown will not affect border operations.

Immigration Courts:  The immigration courts are already backlogged, and the shutdown is only going to worsen that.  The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which is part of the Department of Justice will remain open, but only thirty percent of its employees will be in the various offices.  The number of attorneys working at the courts has been decreased as well.  All of this is likely to restrict removal proceedings to individuals in detention, which are considered essential, and otherwise delay hearing times for most everyone else.

The U.S. Department of State (DOS):  DOS is the agency that process visas and passports.  DOS has confirmed that visa processing will be significantly delayed, although visa processing will continue only in extreme emergency cases. 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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