Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal
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Law Offices of Sweta Khandelwal

The government shutdown has been the leading story in the news over the past week. The effects of the shutdown cannot be understated, especially on the American immigration system. This article will explore the numerous consequences the government shutdown has on the various aspects of the American immigration system.

Fortunately, USCIS operates based on the filing fees paid with each application or petition. Thus, the lack of authorized funding from Congress (which is the cause of the government shutdown) will have little effect on USCIS directly. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security in its entirety will continue to operate, which includes Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and of course USCIS. However, the good news may end there.

The Department of Labor and its Employment and Training Administration ("DOL-ETA") relies significantly, if not entirely, on appropriated funds and thus any visa petition that DOL-ETA must first process before reaching USCIS is stalled indefinitely throughout the government shutdown. The shutdown of the DOL-ETA affects many nonimmigrant visa petitions, including H-1B, H1B1, and E-3 visas and affects new visa petitions, visa transfers, and extensions and amendments by USCIS or the US Department of State ("DOS") for those employers who have not secured a certified LCA prior to the shutdown. Those seeking green cards may also be affected. The shutdown of the DOL-ETA means that those employers sponsoring green cards may seek further backlogs if the DOL-ETA has not yet certified recruitment efforts through the PERM Labor Certification process. The PERM Labor Certification process was already experiencing a six month backlog before the government shutdown. This is sure to cause significant and disruptive delays for many businesses.

The Immigration Courts as well as the DOL's Office of Administrative Law Judges with be slowed down or shutdown. Activities at the Immigration Courts will also be slowed down, and the DOL's Office of Administrative Law Judges will be unable to perform any case-related activities.

E-Verify is also unavailable, including enrollment, verification, viewing or taking action on any case, terminating accounts, running reports, and other key functions of E-Verify. E-Verify Customer Support will also be closed, which includes telephone and email support.

Visas that require processing solely through USCIS and/or the DOS will continue to function as normal. Examples include the L, TN, O, and H-3 visa categories. However, it is unclear how much of a ripple effect the shutdown will have and eventually disrupt USCIS or DOS operations as the shutdown drags on.

If you have questions about how the shutdown can affect your immigration plans or your current immigration case, contact our office today.

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