December 14, 2018

Impact of Potential Government Shutdown on Immigration-Related Federal Agencies

As budget negotiations continue in Washington, the threat of a partial government shutdown looms. Without at least a short-term spending bill, the Government will partially shut down at midnight on December 21st. In order to avoid a partial shutdown, Congress must pass a bill by midnight on December 21, 2018.

Unlike previous shutdowns, if a budget is not reached, only a partial shutdown will occur. The reason for a partial rather than a full government shutdown is because Congress has already funded roughly 75% of the federal government through Sept. 2019, according to a recent CNN article.

During a government shutdown, non-essential government personnel in affected agencies will be furloughed and prevented from working. The following is a list of immigration-related agencies and how they have handled shutdowns in previous years:

  • USCIS – Because USCIS is a fee-funded agency, it will likely continue processing applications and petitions as usual. The exception is the E-Verify program, which will likely shutdown.
  • DOS –At present, it is unclear how exactly the Department of State will be impacted. Visa and passport operations are fee-funded, but operating status and funding will need to be closely monitored. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and emergencies. If you are planning to travel internationally and will need to renew a nonimmigrant visa while abroad, please note that visa interviews could be impacted or delayed.
  • CBP – Inspection and law enforcement are considered essential personnel. Although ports of entry will be open, the processing of applications at the border may be impacted.
  • ICE – ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is fee-funded and will likely be unaffected by a shutdown.
  • DOL – The Department of Labor has already received its budget and is thus not a part of the continuing resolution. Therefore, agencies within DOL, such as OFLC, will likely continue operations during a partial government shutdown.

In addition, several specific immigration programs may be impacted. Individuals may be unable to file I-526 Immigrant Investor petitions if they are investing through the Regional Center Program.

Because the situation is rapidly developing, please stay tuned for further updates.

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