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U.S. - Government Shuts Down

As Congress failed to meet its deadline for budgetary agreement last night, the US government has “shut down”.

At this point, based on information provided by various government agencies, as well as what occurred during the last shutdown, we believe it likely any shutdown may have the following impact on immigration-related processing:

USCIS

USCIS will likely continue operating as usual, particularly at the Service Center level, as the agency is funded by filing fees and not government funds. E-Verify, however, is government funded, thus, we expect that all personnel would be furloughed. Please note that, even without a shut down, we have seen a trend toward longer processing times.

Therefore, for any case requiring a timely adjudication, employers may want to consider utilizing USCIS “premium processing” service, where available.

Department of State

In a shutdown, there may be limited visa processing for "life or death" emergencies. In prior budget-related shutdowns, DOS has continued to provide diplomatic visas, but has noted that "a really, really important business meeting is not life or death." Also, we expect U.S. Citizen Services to continue on a limited basis and potentially age-out and humanitarian cases to receive consideration.

This means that individuals currently in the US who are considering travel abroad, but would need to apply for a visa stamp while abroad, may wish to postpone their travel until after this issue has been resolved, or, if they do depart, they, and their managers, should be prepared to wait outside the US until the issue is resolved by Congress and the Embassies resume normal operations.

Additionally, anyone currently present outside the US awaiting a visa appointment should be made aware that their processing is likely to be delayed.

Department of Labor

We expect that the Office of Foreign Labor Certification will cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown. This means that any currently pending Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) and/or PERM case currently pending with DOL would be held in abeyance until the issue is resolved and the government reopens.

DOL personnel may not be allowed to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. It is not yet clear whether the websites will remain live to allow for continued case submissions. If the websites are not active, it will, at a minimum, require the paper submission of PERM application. USCIS may not accept H1B filings without a certified LCA.

Customs and Border Protection

Inspection and law enforcement are considered "essential personnel," though staffing may be more limited than usual. The borders will be open, however, it is unclear how border processing may be impacted as this is for a benefit, not security based. Delays at airports should be expected.

Action Points

  • Advise employees who may be impacted by the potential government shutdown, as well as their managers, to expect delays and to consider changing their plans.
  • Advise employers to consider utilizing USCIS “premium processing” service, where available.

We are continuously monitoring this situation, and will provide further updates as more details from the various agencies become available.

This news alert was prepared with information provided by Maggio + Kattar.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.