Potential Government Shutdown After September 30, 2015

Because of a political fight at the federal level related to the annual budget, there is a possibility that the U.S. government will be forced to temporarily shut down, starting October 1, 2015. Such shutdowns are rare and there still is a chance that it will be avoided. But, in case a shutdown does occur, stakeholders should understand the impact this would likely have from a U.S. immigration standpoint.

Annual Budget Process and History of Shutdowns

The money needed to fund federal government operations is budgeted and approved on an annual basis. The fiscal year for the U.S. government runs from October 1 to September 30 each year, meaning that fiscal year 2016 (FY16) will begin on October 1, 2015. Congress must pass a spending bill and have it signed into law by President Obama before this date in order to avoid a government shutdown.

The last time the U.S. government shutdown was October 1, 2013. That shutdown lasted until October 16, 2013. Prior to this, there had not been a government shutdown since 1995.

Security, CBP, and Vital Functions Continue

The U.S. government never completely shuts down. As would be expected, even during a budget crisis, agencies responsible for national security and other vital functions remain operational. Thus, even if a shutdown occurs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would still have officers stationed at U.S. ports of entry (e.g., airports,) as was the case during the 2013 shutdown. This means individuals would be able to continue to travel abroad and be readmitted to the United States, more or less as normal.

Fee Based Applications/ Petitions not Affected

Federal agencies that are primarily funded through fee-based services, rather than direct government funding, also continue to operate during a shutdown. Thanks to the filing fees that must be submitted with many immigration applications and petitions, this means that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would remain open. So, cases such as adjustment of status applications (I-485s) could continue to be filed and processed. Similarly, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) charges fees for the visa services provided at U.S. consulates, meaning that the processing of visas (commonly referred to as visa “stamping”) would also continue.

Department of Labor LCAs and PERMs Will be Impacted

No fees are currently charged for the immigration functions performed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), so these services would likely halt in the event of a government shutdown. This can be quite problematic for immigration cases. The DOL is responsible for approving labor condition applications (LCAs), which are required for the filing of H1B petitions. The DOL is also the primary agency responsible for the labor certification (LC) process, which must be completed before moving forward with most employment-based permanent residency (“green card”) cases.

After the shutdown ended in 2013, both the DOL and the USCIS made limited accommodations for stakeholders forced to submit late filings as a result of the shutdown.


The Murthy Law Firm is urging Congress and the President to reach an agreement that will avoid a government shutdown. Stay tuned to MurthyDotCom for updates related to this ongoing budget battle.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.