Congressional budget negotiations for FY 2020 continue, and the White House is threatening to veto any spending bill that does not fund a border wall. If an agreement to fund various federal agencies is not reached by midnight Friday, December 21, 2018, approximately 25 percent of government functions are expected to shut down. The Department of Homeland Security will be hardest hit, but the impact on immigration benefits is expected to be limited, as follows:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Because USCIS application and petition adjudications are primarily funded by user application fees, USCIS is expected to continue operations without great disruption, though processing times may slow. In contrast, USCIS E-Verify service is appropriations-funded and would be suspended. If the government shuts down, employers will not be able to enroll in E-Verify or to access their E-Verify accounts to verify the employment eligibility of new hires and resolve tentative nonconfirmations (TNCs). E-Verify customer service, online webinars and training sessions, and the Self-Check program will also be unavailable during the shutdown. Employers must still comply with their Form I-9 obligations.
U.S. Department of Labor
DOL previously received appropriations for FY 2020 and the agency is funded through September 30, 2019. Business should continue as usual, including the processing of Labor Condition Applications (required for H-1B, H-1B1 and E-3 visa applications), Prevailing Wage Requests, and PERM labor certification applications.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
CBP personnel, responsible for inspection and law enforcement at U.S. ports of entry, are considered “essential personnel” and are expected to work without pay. U.S. borders and Preflight Inspections (PFI) areas will remain open. However, there may be staffing adjustments that could result in increased wait times to clear inspection and secure admission to the U.S. Additionally, adjudication of petitions by CBP officers at the border and PFI areas, such as TN applications and L-1 petitions for Canadian citizens, is expected to continue.
U.S. Department of State
Visa and passport services are fee-funded and should continue as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations. However, passport offices housed in government buildings otherwise closed during a shutdown may become unavailable to the public. U.S. Embassies and Consulates remain open and will continue to process visa applications as long as funding remains in place. Visa application processing times may be delayed due to staffing adjustments or slowdowns at other federal agencies responsible for processing the security clearances required for visa issuance. A prolonged shutdown could ultimately exhaust DOS appropriations and result in the suspension of visa processing functions for all but emergency cases.
The situation posed by the federal government shutdown remains fluid. If a shutdown occurs, the impact on immigration related services may change the longer any shutdown persists. Gibney will be closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates. If you have any questions about this alert, please contact your Gibney representative or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The general information provided herein is not intended to serve as a source of legal advice for any purpose. Please contact your designated Gibney representative or immigration counsel for specific legal advice.