Potential Government Shutdown After December 8, 201706 Dec 2017
Because a spending bill has yet to be passed, there is a possibility that the U.S. government will be forced to temporarily shut down, starting December 9, 2017. 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 has historically been budgeted and approved on an annual basis. In recent years, however, relatively short-term bills, known as continuing resolutions, have been passed to keep the government funded. The current continuing resolution is scheduled to expire on December 9, 2017. If a full budget or, more likely, another continuing resolution is not passed by Congress and signed by the President by then, a government shutdown will occur.
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). 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 Would be Impacted
No fees are currently charged for the immigration functions performed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), so these services likely would 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.
Impact on Immigration Programs Scheduled to Expire
In recent years, there have been several immigration programs that have been extended each time an annual budget or continuing resolution has been passed. For instance, the regional center portion of the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5) immigrant investor program will expire unless Congress acts.
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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