Possible Impact of Government Shutdown on Immigration

On March 18, 2011, President Obama signed into law a temporary spending measure to keep the government funded for another three weeks averting a federal shutdown. The temporary spending measure again resets the timetable for negotiations on a long-term budget deal. The three-week budget bill included $6 billion in spending cuts to appease conservatives who want to see Congress slash record levels of government spending. A federal shutdown could affect governmental agencies involved with immigration and could have an impact on immigration processing, as outlined below.

Department of Labor DOL has not said whether iCERT would remain operational during a government shutdown, and processing of labor condition applications (LCAs) may be slowed down. This is of particular concern as we approach the start of H-1B filing for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. Online PERM filings may also be affected, but paper filings could still be mailed, and the latter approach could be utilized if there are any issues of time sensitivity e.g., expiring recruitment or post-6th-year H-1B issues. Documentation of mailing would need to be maintained since applications would not be receipted in a timely way. PERM prevailing wage requests would also probably not be processed during a shutdown.

Department of State While the diplomatic and security aspects of the Department of State (DOS) operations would continue, visa applications would likely not be processed in the event of a shutdown. It is anticipated that the consulates will not be open for visa appointments and processing. The DOS could limit itself to emergency citizen services, age outs, and humanitarian issues. Thus, depending upon the duration of such an event, individuals could be stranded abroad with no way of obtaining required travel documents. The same is true for the processing of U.S. passports. Foreign nationals could encounter long delays in obtaining visas outside the United States, possibly extending beyond the shutdown itself as consular offices are forced to reschedule canceled appointments. If possible, foreign nationals may want to postpone international travel or at least plan for delays.

USCIS USCIS has announced that, because it is funded by filing fees, it should remain open during a government shutdown, though employers and foreign nationals should still be prepared for the possibility of some adjudication delays. On the compliance front, there are some indications that Form I-9 audits could be suspended during a shutdown, and E-Verify operations could also be affected. The operations of the four Service Centers should remain largely unaffected. Local USCIS District Offices should also remain open.

CBP Because border protection is considered an essential function, it will continue to be funded. There is the likelihood that staffing would be reduced in which case individuals could experience processing delays. Foreign nationals arriving at US Ports of Entry (both at airports and at land crossings) will continue to be processed, including border applications such as Canadian L-1s and TNs. Individuals will likely experience longer processing if personnel is scaled back.