How will the government shutdown affect my immigration application?

Image source:  Wikimedia Commons

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: Congress votes to end government shutdown

According to Politico, the Senate voted 81-18 to move forward on a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to end the shutdown and continue to negotiate on immigration and spending matters. If a broader deal is not reached by Feb. 8, the Senate would take up legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who are losing legal protections, as long as the government remains open.

At midnight on January 20, 2018, the U.S. government shut down, exactly one year after Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States. With the national conversation focused squarely on Dreamers, Congress was unable to find common ground on a budget deal and has shut down the U.S. Government.

For the roughly 1.8 million Dreamers and their families, the Congressional decision not to bring a vote on bipartisan Dream Act legislation means more anxiety and uncertainty as their lives hang in a balance. This was the fourth time in as many months that Congress looked to fund the government on a short-term basis, and the President complicated negotiations by constantly moving the goalposts on what kind of deal he would ultimately sign.  

What will happen now that the government has shut down? 

The government will remain shut down until Congress can pass either a short-term budget, known as a continuing resolution, or pass a budget to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year. In the meantime, negotiations on the Dream Act and other legislative proposals will continue, and all government personnel are not allowed to work but “essential” employees. However, most immigration functions, including immigration enforcement continue

Which immigration agencies are affected by the shutdown?

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) remains open and scheduled appointments will take place as USCIS is funded by application fees rather than appropriations. However, the following USCIS programs will be affected, as they are funded by appropriations and therefore will be suspended for the duration of the shutdown.

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the United States that promote economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program.
  • E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. USCIS implemented temporary policies during the shutdown, including suspending the "three-day rule," extending the time in which employees may resolve Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs), and confirming that employers should not take adverse action against employees due to an interim case status during this time.
  • Conrad 30 J-1 doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the United States; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
  • Non-minister religious workers. This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust status in the United States to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.

The Department of State (DOS) will continue passport and visa operations, as well as critical services to U.S. citizens overseas, as these are fee-funded. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s (SEVP’s) offices will remain open because SEVP is also fee-funded. 

Customs and Border Protection, which operates at ports of entry, such as airports and border crossings, will continue to function. Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential” and will, therefore, continue working. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will continue its detention and immigration enforcement activities. 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.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR): Courts with detained dockets will receive all filings but will only process those involving detained dockets. Courts with only non-detained dockets will not be open and will not accept filings. EOIR’s detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would, therefore, continue to operate. 

DOL: The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC's web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.

I have a pending immigration application, how will I be affected by the shutdown?

The government shutdown does not affect fee-funded activities at USCIS or DOS. This means that offices will remain open, and all applicants should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. DACA renewal applications will continue to be processed.

If you are affected by these developments and would like information about the process, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.

Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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