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Immigration Services during Government Shutdown

2014-02-03
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The United States government is experiencing its first shutdown after 1996. It means that hundreds of thousands of US employees are on “furlough.” A furlough is a situation where the US federal employees go on unpaid vacation. This situation arises because of an impasse in the US Congress over passing of the funding bill. During this period, some government agencies will experience complete shutdown while others work with limited number of employees. In this article, we will try to highlight the impact of this shutdown on the agencies that normally deal with immigration services.

Since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is funded by the filing fees, USCIS will continue to adjudicate the applications and petitions filed. But expect some delay or reductions or limitations in adjudicating the cases. On the other hand, since, E-Verify system is not funded by filing fees it will not work, so employers will not be able to check on the legal immigration status of prospective employees on E-Verify website. Employers effected with the shutdown will be provide additional time. Notably, the process of Form I-9 will continue as required by USCIS and employers are advised to complete their I-9 responsibilities during this time.

The Department of Labor (DOL) will be affected by the shutdown. The most effected agency during the shutdown is the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) as its vast majority of employees are placed in furlough. The websites operated by OFLC including iCERT and PERM system will become static and will not accept nor process any Labor Condition Applications, Prevailing Wage Applications, Applications for Temporary Employment Certification, or Applications for Permanent Employment Certification requests. The authorized users are unable to process or access their accounts during this shutdown period.

The Department of State (DOS) will continue to provide American citizen services, passport operations and visa issuance services at embassies and consulates located abroad. Some passport offices may be forced to shut down their operations as some of their offices are located in Federal Buildings.

Immigration courts will function partly and take up some matters of US citizens and legal residents that are financed by customer fees. Matters such as political asylum and non-emergency deportation cases could be delayed. There are already numerous asylum cases pending in the courts and this delay could further worsen the backlog situations in the courts.

Currently, majority of the agencies are providing limited services with bare minimum employees. The situation could turn bad, if the Congress further delays in passing the financial bill. USCIS will continue to provide its majority of the services, as they are not entirely dependent on the government for funding. On the other hand, DOL which depends on the government for appropriations will not be functioning until it gets its funds.

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