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USCIS REPORTS IT WILL CONTINUE TO OPERATE, EXCEPT E-VERIFY, IF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTS DOWN

Amidst all of the hype surrounding the potential federal government shut down have been floating concerns that USCIS will also shut down.  The government shutdown may occur midnight, Saturday April 9th, if Congress is unable to put an end to its budgetary deadlock.

 

In response to these concerns, USCIS just confirmed to the American Immigration Lawyers Associations (AILA) that it will continue to operate as the entire agency (except E-Verify) is funded by fees.  It is not entirely clear that this is the case, because at least one local office has indicated that it is working on a shutdown plan.  E-Verify will, however, be shutting down in the event Congress does not pass the budget.

 

The federal government shutdown’s effect on the Department of State (DOS) will likely be the same as it was in the 1996 government closing.  At that time, only visa issuance was being done for some diplomats and for “life or death” situations.  As DOS has said before, “a really, really important business meeting is not life or death.”

 

As Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) inspection and law enforcement are considered “essential personnel,” CBP will not be closed. However, while the borders will remain open, staffing may be more limited than usual.  Thus, it is not clear how the shutdown will affect the processing of applications filed at the border.

 

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) has been advised that it should proceed with putting in place shutdown plans.  Personnel who are not considered “essential” will be furloughed.  EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue to operate.

 

The Department of Labor (DOL) is also making plans for a potential shutdown.  If there is a shutdown, DOL personnel will not be available to respond to inquires or emails.  It is unclear at this point, whether iCERT/PERM will continue to function.  However, because the systems required funding to run, immigration attorneys should assume they would not be available.  If the iCERT/PERM programs are not functioning, this will essentially mean that any H-1B visas that have not already obtained a Labor Certification Application cannot be filed with USCIS.  The LCA is an essential element of an H-1B application, and is processed through the iCERT program.  Additionally, if the PERM program shuts down, this means that no PERM green cards can be filed with USCIS, as the PERM green cards are filed online through the Department of Labor Foreign Labor Certification Permanent Online System.


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