Government Faces Yet Another Possible Shutdown After February 8, 201807 Feb 2018
In what has become almost routine, the federal government is teetering on yet another potential government shutdown. The deadline for passing a spending bill to extend government operations is midnight on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Failure to pass such a bill would result in the second government shutdown in as many months. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill last night, and the Senate appears poised to pass a long-term budget of its own. However, the two sides appear to be far apart, and it remains unclear whether a compromise can be struck in time.
In case a shutdown does occur, stakeholders should understand the impact this would have from a U.S. immigration standpoint.
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 when a shutdown occurs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) still has officers stationed at U.S. ports of entry (e.g., airports). This means that individuals continue to travel abroad, and be readmitted to the United States, more or less as normal.
Fee-Based Applications and 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. Because filing fees are submitted with many immigration applications and petitions, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would remain open in the event of a government shutdown. So, adjustment-of-status applications (I-485s), and other such cases, could continue to be filed and would continue to be 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”) also would 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 are likely to halt if there is 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 (commonly, “green card”) cases.
Impact on Immigration Programs Scheduled to Expire
In recent years, several immigration programs with expiration dates have been extended each time an annual budget or continuing resolution has passed. For instance, the regional center portion of the employment-based, fifth preference (EB5) immigrant investor program will expire unless Congress acts, as will the EB4 Non-Minister Religious Worker program, and the Conrad 30 waiver program for physicians. If Congress fails to extend these programs before the current continuing resolution expires, the government will stop processing these applications, until such time as they again are extended.
The Murthy Law Firm urges 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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