How a Government Shutdown Would Impact Federal Immigration Services

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP

The federal government is days away from a partial shutdown. If Congress does not pass multiple appropriations bills or agree to a continuing resolution by Saturday, multiple federal agencies involved in the immigration process will lose funding and have to operate with limited capacity starting Sunday. The government shutdown will create challenges for employers who routinely sponsor foreign workers for immigration benefits. 

Below is a list of the agencies and the potential impact to the immigration process.

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the primary government agency that adjudicates immigration benefits. USCIS is funded by filing fees and will continue adjudicating immigration benefits during the shutdown. With that said, several immigration benefits, like the H-1B, E-3, and permanent residence visas involve other federal agencies that will be impacted by the shutdown.  
  • U.S. Department of State (DOS) operates American embassies and consulates around the world and is charged with issuing visas. Similar to USCIS, consular visa operations are funded by visa application fees. The availability of visa appointments and the processing timelines for visas can be negatively impacted during a shutdown if a particular DOS post does not generate sufficient funds from visa application fees.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operates all port of entry and pre-clearance locations around the globe. The inspection and admission of travelers into the U.S. is considered a law enforcement function. This means CBP falls under the "essential personnel" exception. During a government shutdown, CBP officers will continue to inspect and admit travelers into the U.S. Wait times at various ports of entry or airports, however, would likely increase significantly.
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for adjudicating labor condition applications (LCAs) and permanent labor certifications (commonly known as PERM). The LCA is a filing prerequisite for H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3 work visas. Similarly, the PERM process is the first step in sponsoring an employee for permanent residence. DOL will cease operations during the government shutdown, thereby disrupting the availability of these visa categories.
  • E-Verify is an electronic system for confirming the identity and lawful status of new hires. E-Verify will be unavailable during a government shutdown. While employers must still complete the I-9 form, they will be unable to immediately confirm an individual’s work authorization. Employers that are required to register and use E-Verify under state law or through a federal contract may experience delays in obtaining business licenses or in the commencement of contractual obligations until the government reopens. 

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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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