How Does the Government Shutdown Affect Your Immigration Case?

 In Immigration

The federal government entered a partial shutdown on Friday, December 21, 2018. Many clients have been asking me how this affects their immigration cases? The short answer is that, in many cases, there is little to no effect at all.

Below is a quick summary of how the shutdown affects each of the federal agencies involved in immigration cases.

USCIS: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is a fee-funded agency, so it does not depend on funding from Congress like other agencies do. When the government shuts down, it is generally business as usual for USCIS. However, there are some exceptions when it comes to programs that receive appropriated funds. These include E-Verify, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, Conrad 30 J-1 doctors, and non-minister religious workers. If your case involves one of these programs, you should have already heard from us about whether the shutdown will affect your case. If you have any questions, please contact us.

DOS: The Department of State’s visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be affected by the shutdown. If there is a shortfall in funding and visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.

CBP: There is little to no disruption in the operations of Customs and Border Patrol. Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted.

ICE: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

EOIR: The shutdown will not effect respondents who are detained. Those cases will proceed as usual. Most immigration courts will reset non-detained cases for a later date when funding resumes.

DOL: According to an online announcement, “[t]he Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is making this announcement to assure employers and other interested stakeholders that the temporary lapse in appropriations for some Federal government programs and activities does not directly impact the administration of OFLC programs. A full year appropriations through September 30, 2019, for all DOL program and activities was enacted by Congress on September 28, 2018. The OFLC national processing centers and the iCERT System are open and operating as normally scheduled.”

CIS Ombudsman: The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman), which provides individual case assistance and makes recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits by USCIS, is closed due to the shutdown and is not responding to inquiries through its online case intake system.

Please do not hesitate to contact our office if you have any questions about whether the shutdown affects your case.

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