Possible Government Shutdown After December 21, 2018

Congress must pass a spending bill to extend government operations by midnight of December 21, 2018, or else another temporary shutdown of the federal government will go into effect. This would be the third shutdown of 2018.

The crux of the current budget dispute revolves around President Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Even with a Republican-controlled Congress, however, the President simply does not have the votes to get this passed. Meanwhile, with the Democrats scheduled to take control of the House in January, the President’s leverage to get the centerpiece of his Presidential campaign funded is quickly fading. Earlier today, the White House released a statement signaling that the President is now willing to sign a budget deal that does not include the demanded funding for a border wall. This hopefully means that a deal will be reached in time to avoid a government shutdown.

Annual Budget Process and History of Shutdowns

The money needed to fund federal government operations historically has 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 at midnight on December 21, 2018. 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.

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 are able to proceed with plans to travel abroad and that return trips to the United States will continue 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) remains open in the event of a government shutdown. So, adjustment-of-status applications (I-485s), and other such cases, still could 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”) would also continue.

Separate Funding for Department of Labor Means LCAs and PERMs Would Not be Impacted

In September 2018, a “minibus” funding bill was signed into law that provides funding to the DOL through September 30, 2019. This means that the DOL will remain open, even if a government shutdown occurs. The DOL is responsible for approving LCAs, which are required when filing 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, 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 employment-based, fourth preference (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.

Duration of Government Shutdowns

Most government shutdowns are resolved fairly quickly. For example, the first government shutdown of 2018 lasted a few days. The second shutdown was resolved in a matter of hours. So, should a shutdown occur, the hope is that public pressure will force the parties to reach a compromise that will get the government moving again.


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.