How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Immigration?


As of midnight on January 20, 2018, a temporary U.S. federal government shutdown took effect as Congress was unable to pass appropriations legislation to continue funding governmental operations. The effect of the shutdown is that most non-essential discretionary federal programs will be closed until government funding is restored.

Because the U.S. immigration system involves a combination of several federal agencies, some of which are funded by user fees instead of congressionally-appropriated funds, and some of which are considered essential, the impact of the shutdown varies across agencies and their functions. Included below is a summary of information from the American Immigration Lawyers Association describing how immigration services will be impacted by the government's shutdown:

USCIS: With the exception of E-Verify, USCIS operations are funded by filing fees paid by applicants and petitioners. Accordingly, E-Verify is the only USCIS system that will be affected by the shutdown. All other USCIS operations are expected to continue normal operations. As of this writing, USCIS has yet to issue guidance on filing immigration petitions, such as H-1B and certain I-140s for EB-2 and EB-3 cases, that require a certified LCA or PERM Labor Certification from DOL (see below).

DOL: The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) has already ceased processing all applications due to the government shutdown. OFLC's web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, are inaccessible, and personnel will not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. This means that it is not possible to submit a new Labor Condition Application (LCA) or PERM Labor Certification, and the processing of pending applications will be delayed indefinitely during the shutdown.

DOS: Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but the Department of State only notes that "scheduled passport and visa services in the United States and at our posts overseas will continue during the lapse in appropriations as the situation permits." Thus, operating status and funding will need to be monitored-and the website will not be updated during the shutdown. If the government shutdown continues for an extended period and visa operations are eventually affected, a possible outcome is that consular posts may opt to only handle diplomatic visas and "life or death" emergencies.

CBP: Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered "essential" personnel and are not affected by the shutdown. U.S. ports of entry will be open, but processing of applications filed at the border may be affected. The CBP website will not be updated during the shutdown.

ICE: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue. The ICE-administered Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are also unaffected since SEVP is funded by application fees.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman has already ceased operations and will not accept inquiries through its online case intake system until funding is restored.

If you have any questions about how the federal government's shutdown could affect your organization, please contact a Goel & Anderson attorney.