UPDATED: January 3, 2019
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee-funded services remain unaffected by the shutdown. However, Immigration Court (EOIR) is closed except for detained cases. ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys are working on the detained docket. Assume that check-ins are proceeding as per usual. The Department of State is still providing passport and visa services. U.S. district courts are all reacting differently in different jurisdictions. Contact the relevant court to see how the shutdown may affect your case.
The current shutdown pertains to funding for fiscal year 2019 which had begun on October 1, 2018. The shutdown started on December 22 after President Trump refused to sign appropriation bills passed by Congress.
Effect of the shutdown
Agencies funded by two bills passed in September are not affected by the shutdown. Initial effects were expected to be lessened because the beginning of the shutdown coincides with a four-day weekend due to Christmas. If the shutdown were to extend into a normal work day, about 400,000 federal employees were expected to be furloughed out of the 800,000 working for the affected agencies, out of 2.1 million civilian non-postal federal employees. As with the January shutdown, national parks were expected to be open as practical, though there would be no staff and buildings would be closed, while the Smithsonian Institution expected to be open through January 1 by using leftover funds.
Immigration and the shutdown
The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect U.S. Citizenship Immigration Service’s (USCIS) fee-funded activities. USCIS offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. USCIS will continue to accept petitions and applications for benefit requests, except as noted below.
Some USCIS programs, however, will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:
EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program (not the EB-5 Program). Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the U.S. that promotes economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 Program will continue to operate.
E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.
Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical 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 U.S.; 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 to permanent resident status in the U.S. to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.
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