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How the Government Shutdown is Impacting Immigration-related Agencies

In the United States, a government shutdown occurs when Congress and the President fail to pass appropriations legislation funding government agencies and operations. At midnight on Saturday, January 20, 2018, the federal government shut down. This is the first shutdown in U.S. history to occur while both chambers of Congress and the White House are controlled by the same political party, and it stems from major disputes over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Trump border wall.

How does this impact immigration-related agencies?

Generally, if the government shuts down for budgetary reasons, federal employees not deemed “essential” are furloughed and not allowed to work. These employees are not even allowed to check work-related emails from home. So, how does this impact immigration-related agencies? Here is the breakdown:

  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – USCIS is a fee-funded agency, so generally, its business as usual. However, there are a few exceptions. Several USCIS programs will either expire, suspend operations, or otherwise be affected until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. This includes E-Verify, which will be inaccessible during the shutdown. 
  • Department of State (DOS) – Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and will not cease operating during the government shutdown, but there is currently a delay in the Global Entry program and passport issuance.  In the event the DOS operating status affects visa operations, consular posts will only handle diplomatic visas and life or death emergencies.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – Ports of entry will remain open, as inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” However, the processing of applications at the border may be impacted. In addition, the NEXUS program is unavailable, which means travelers will not be able to access NEXUS kiosks or apply for/update NEXUS information.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and the ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices will remain open.
  • Department of Labor (DOL) – The Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is not processing applications, and personnel have been furloughed. OFLC’s online systems, iCERT and PERM are inaccessible.

If you are interested in immigrating to the United States, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to explore your options today!