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How will a government shutdown impact immigration to the U.S.?

On October 1, 2013, absent Congress passing a resolution to continue appropriations provided under the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, all but “essential” government workers will be furloughed and not allowed to work.
So how will a government shutdown impact immigration to the U.S.?
While there is still enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, many experts are speculating on the impact such a lapse would have on immigration services.  Most agencies are preparing to mirror plans developed in anticipation of a government shutdown in 2011.  Many of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) functions will continue, since they are primarily funded through user fees, but following is a breakdown of possibilities:  

***Please note: the possibilities listed below are only speculation as official guidance has not been released***

  • Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS): will continue operating, except for E-Verify.  Meaning applications and petitions will still be adjudicated, but E-Verify, the Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States, will be shut down.
  • Department of State (DOS): Only visa processing will be for “life or death” emergencies. In prior budget-related shutdowns, DOS has continued to provide diplomatic visas and said “a really, really important business meeting is not life or death.
  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP): Inspection and law enforcement are considered “essential personnel,” though staffing may be more limited than usual.  The borders will be open, but CBP is unsure of how the shutdown will affect the processing of applications filed at the border.
  • Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR): EOIR has been advised to “put its shutdown plans in place.” As with other agencies, personnel who are not considered “essential” will be furloughed. EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue in operation.
  • Department of Labor (DOL): All applications (such as H-1B LCAs and PERM) will cease processing.  DOL personnel will not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries.

What does the possible shutdown truly mean?
The biggest problem of a government shutdown is DOS.  While USCIS will continue adjudications, a person will not be able to go to a Consulate or Embassy to then get their visa into their passport.  Individuals may find themselves with approved cases, but will nonetheless have to remain outside the country until a visa interview can occur and an actual visa stamp is placed in the passport.
The attorneys at Berardi Immigration Law will continue to monitor this very important issue and provide updates as they come readily available.