On October 1st, the U.S. Government went into shutdown due to the inability of Congress to agree on a budget. Nonessential employees are being furloughed until the matter is resolved. This is front page news in the U.S., and everyone hopes the disputes are resolved as soon as possible.
In the meantime, here’s a quick summary of how the shutdown affects immigration petitioners:
1. The Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will not be accepting or processing applications. Specifically, this means labor condition applications, which are a required element of H-1B petitions, labor certifications, and prevailing wage determinations, are all on hold. This seems to be the most immediate impact of the shutdown for immigration petitioners, as this development could skew timelines, particularly related to H-1B renewals and the need to timely file a labor certification.
Here’s what the DOL says:
OFLC functions are not “excepted” from a shutdown and its employees would be placed in furlough status should a lapse in appropriated funds occur. Consequently, in the event of a government shutdown, OFLC will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials (such as audit responses) it receives, including Labor Condition Applications, Applications for Prevailing Wage Determination, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification. OFLC’s web site, including the iCERT Visa Portal System, would become static and unable to process any requests or allow authorized users to access their online accounts.
2. All USCIS offices are open and applications continue to process, at least for now. USCIS handles all benefits petitions, such as naturalization applications, all work authorization types, and permanent resident applications. The office continues to be open because activities are largely funded by fees paid by applicants.
3. By and large, U.S. Customs and Border Protection continues to operate. All ports of entry are open, and so far there are no exceptional delays. The Admissibility Review Office, which adjudicates U.S. waivers, remains open and applications will continue to be adjudicated. The CBP website will not be updated, and approximately 6000 CBP workers will be furloughed.
4. The Department of State will continue operations and visa adjudications as routine for now, but the agency is monitoring the possible impact of the shutdown closely. Now, in 2011, when the government was facing a shutdown, the Department of State said that only life and death circumstances would justify visa processing. The more recent statement is tempered, clearly, but we’re only in Day 2 of the shutdown, as of this writing.
5. The Executive Office of Immigration Review (Immigration Courts) are implementing shutdown plans, and furloughs will occur for non-essential personnel. The detainee docket is considered an essential function and therefore will continue to operate.
6. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations will continue in regards to detention and enforcement operations.
7. The SEVIS system for students and exchange visitors will continue to operate, due to being a fee-funded program.
Let’s hope this gets resolved sooner than later. The longer the shutdown, the more likely other agencies and petition types will be impacted.