Potential Government Shutdown After Sep 30, 201628 Sep 2016
Due to the partisan disagreements at the federal level related to the annual budget, there is a possibility that the federal government will be forced to shut down temporarily starting October 1, 2016. Such shutdowns are rare and there is still hope that it will be avoided. If a shutdown does occur, stakeholders should understand the impact this may 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 1st to September 30th each year, meaning that fiscal year 2017 (FY17) will begin on October 1, 2016. Congress must pass a spending bill and have it signed into law by President Obama before this date to avoid a government shutdown.
The last time the federal government was shutdown was October 1, 2013. That shutdown lasted for just over 2 weeks. 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 Control (CBP) would still have officers stationed at U.S. ports of entry (e.g., airports). This means individuals would be able to continue travel abroad and be readmitted to the United States, more or less as normal.
Fee-Supported Agencies Remain Open
Federal agencies that are primarily funded through fee-based services, rather than direct government funding, also continue to operate during a shutdown. Because of the filing fees that must be submitted with many immigration applications and petitions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would remain open in the event of a shutdown. 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”) outside the U.S. would also continue.
Department of Labor LCAs and PERMs Impacted
No fees are currently charged for the immigration functions performed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), so these services would be suspended 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 process, which must be completed before moving forward with most employment-based permanent residency (commonly, “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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