Possible Government Shutdown After Midnight Tonight18 Dec 2020
Congress must pass a spending bill to extend government operations before 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, December 19, 2020, or else a temporary shutdown of the federal government will go into effect. This would be the fourth shutdown of the Trump Administration.
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 after midnight tonight. If a full spending bill or 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.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), on the other hand, would largely be shuttered for the duration of any government shutdown. 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 the Trump Administration occurred in 2018, and lasted only a few days. The second shutdown of 2018 was resolved in a matter of hours. However, the third shutdown of that year, which began on December 22, 2018, stretched on for 35 days, the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
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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