The Impact of the U.S. Federal Government Shutdown on Immigration

The U.S. Federal Government is in shutdown mode, due to a budget fight over President Trump’s desire to build a wall on the southern border. Brinkmanship has become increasingly common in D.C., and the taxpayers usually pay the price. Shutdowns are expensive–agencies function like computers with malware installed, if at all; businesses and personnel are harmed; and there are inherent costs in shutting down and starting up anew agency work.  Thankfully, the term “shutdown” is a misnomer, as many “essential” services continue on.

Immigration involves several federal agencies and bureaus, and so impacts vary overall. Our clients are most concerned about applications for immigration benefits, which are principally handled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of State. Because these applications are supposed to be fee-supported, impacts of the shutdown tend to be collateral impacts. The government will continue to adjudicate most applications. Below, I’ve pasted a press release from USCIS on how they’ll handle things.

Due to a peculiarity in funding, the Department of Labor (DOL) will continue to adjudicate matters, including PERMs, prevailing wage requests, and labor condition applications.

The Immigration Courts were initially closed. The Executive Office of Immigration Review is moving forward with detained cases as scheduled, and are rescheduling non-detained cases.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which runs the border, is considered “essential” business, and so they will carry on through the shutdown. However, the Nexus office is not processing new applications, to the misfortune of some.

Ironically, E-Verify and related programs are shut down, which unfortunately is causing headaches for some employers who are required by government contract to use E-Verify.

Department of Justice civil litigation is curtailed or postponed, to the extent possible. Litigation is deadline driven, and so as the shutdown continues, this creates issues for judges and private litigants.

Here’s a memo from USCIS on the shutdown:

Lapse in Federal Funding Does Not Impact Most USCIS Operations

The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS’s fee-funded activities. Our offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. USCIS will continue to accept petitions and applications for benefit requests, except as noted below.

Some USCIS programs, however, will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program (not the EB-5 Program). Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the U.S. that promotes economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 Program will continue to operate.
  • E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.
  • Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the U.S.; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
  • Non-minister religious workers. This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust to permanent resident status in the U.S. to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.

 

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