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How Would a Government Shutdown Affect Immigration?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 04, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While the phrase "government shutdown" sounds ominous, it doesn't mean that every federal agency will close its doors and the wheels of the executive branch will grind to a halt. As they did through shutdowns during Obama's presidency, certain essential government agencies and employees would continue working during the looming Trump shutdown.

That said, there are quite a few different government agencies involved in immigration applications and enforcement, so which ones are essential and which ones could slow down or close up shop during a government shutdown? Here's a quick look.

Immigration Applications and Processing

As noted by Global Immigration Blog, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded not by the federal government, but primarily by user fees. Therefore, the bulk of immigration applications will still be processed as usual. Still, certain applications, like H-1B filings, depend on Labor Condition Applications, which are handled by the Department of Labor. As the DOL employees are not considered "essential" government workers, USCIS would need to decide whether some H petitions could be accepted without certified LCAs.

The bulk of the impact of a shutdown would come in the workplace. Without the DOL, the iCERT Visa Portal System would be inaccessible and neither Prevailing Wage Requests nor PERM 9089 Forms for permanent labor certification would be processed. Likewise, E-Verify would be inaccessible for employers, who would likely get a reprieve from the three-day requirement to verify new hires' employment eligibility. Employers would still need to complete Form I-9s in a timely fashion and file their E-Verify cases at a later date.

Immigration Enforcement

The Department of Homeland Security, including Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would continue to function as usual, as their staff are essential government workers. And while processing pending cases of individuals currently in detention will likely be considered an essential government function, cases in already overburdened Immigration Courts would probably be delayed.

If you're wondering how a possible government shutdown could affect your immigration application or status, contact an experienced immigration attorney today.

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