The automatic spending cutback is expected to result in diminished immigration-related services.
It is anticipated that the sequester (the automatic spending cutback that went into effect on March 1, 2013) may result in diminished immigration-related services provided by federal departments and agencies, as outlined below.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS), which is responsible for the adjudication of U.S. visas at consular posts abroad, may experience significant delays in the visa adjudication process, particularly at high-volume posts in India and China. In its press briefing on February 27, 2013, DOS noted that it is difficult to anticipate exactly how the sequester will impact delays at consular posts in each individual country. Nevertheless, foreign nationals should anticipate the possibility of considerably longer wait times when applying for U.S. visas and should plan ahead to minimize the impact of visa service delays to travel.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which conducts inspections of individuals arriving at U.S. ports of entry, may experience delays in the inspection of arrivals at U.S. ports of entry. Individuals traveling outside the United States should anticipate possible delays during inspection upon their return.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which processes prevailing wage determinations, Program Electronic Review Management (PERM) labor certifications, and labor condition applications (LCAs), may also experience delays in processing times as a result of the sequester. DOL certification of H-1B LCAs is governed by a regulation that mandates a decision within seven days of filing. It is therefore presumed, at the present time, that DOL will honor its legal obligation and not permit the sequester or any related budget cuts to impact the timing of LCA certification.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is responsible for adjudicating immigrant and nonimmigrant petitions and applications, funds its services largely through filing fees rather than congressional appropriations. As a result, the likelihood of USCIS processes being impacted by the sequester is less than that of other agencies.
It remains to be seen exactly how the sequester will affect these immigration-related matters. We will provide updates as developments occur.