US: Government Shutdown Could Have Immigration Consequences
President Obama yesterday signed into law a two-week stopgap spending bill that averted a federal government shutdown, at least until March 18. The possibility of a shutdown 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 – Visas would probably not be routinely issued during a shutdown. During the shutdown in 1995, DOS limited itself to emergency citizen services, age outs, and humanitarian issues.
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. 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, though it is possible that staffing would be reduced and there could be processing delays. Foreign nationals arriving at US Ports of Entry (both at airports and at land crossings) should be processed, including border applications such as Canadian L-1s and TNs, though it is possible that with scaled back personnel things may move more slowly.
There may be other time sensitive issues that a shutdown would trigger; please contact the professional at Fragomen that you usually work with if you have any matters that you would like to discuss.