Update from CNN: President Donald Trump signed a bill Monday night ending the government shutdown, capping off a nearly three-day deadlock and reinstating funds until February 8.
Congress was unable to pass a short-term funding bill that would keep the government funded and open, resulting in a partial government shutdown starting today, January 20. Congress failed to agree on a continuing resolution to fund the government, requiring a shutdown of all non-essential Federal activities.
The shutdown will end whenever Congress reaches an agreement in terms to begin funding again, and there is no news yet on when that will be. When the government shut down in October 2013, the shutdown lasted for 16 days.
What does the government shutdown mean for immigration?
During a shutdown, non-essential personnel in government capacities are not permitted to work, though critical personnel will stay on the job. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for example, will remain open throughout the shutdown, as will other personnel who deal with national security and other “essential” immigration duties.
Other agencies, like the Department of Labor, for example, are considered “non-essential.” Those agencies will stop activity in the wake of the shutdown. That means the DOL won’t be reachable via email or to answer questions or review pending applications, LCAs for H-1B visas or ETA 9089 applications for green cards.
In short, the only affected immigration application types will be those H-1B, E-3, and H-1B1 applications which have not yet been filed and a certified LCA has not been obtained, Prevailing Wage Requests, and ETA 9089 applications.
If the H-1B application is already pending with the USCIS, there should be no impact. If the Prevailing Wage Request or ETA 9089 is already filed, it will remain with the DOL but they will not resume processing until funding returns meaning the processing time will be increased for final adjudication.
Our Envoy-affiliated law firm, GIA, anticipates that all other immigration applications should not be impacted (i.e. L-1, TN, O-1, P-1, etc).
Some fee-based agencies will be able to continue operating normally, since they don’t entirely rely on the government’s budget to stay open. USCIS falls into this category, and will continue operations as normal, though E-Verify will not be available until the government is funded and opens again.
What should you do in the event of the government shutdown?
Since the government has decided not to extend funding beyond January 19, 2018 some immigration-related activities will have to be put on hold from January 20 until the government resumes its funding.
If you’re preparing LCA documentation for an H-1B transfer or a PERM labor certification for an employee’s green card, for example, you should continue preparations to ensure the swift filing process once the Department of Labor resumes normal work.
Talk to your immigration counsel to get your specific immigration-related questions answered in the wake of the government shutdown.