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Potential Government Shutdown and Impact on Immigration Processes

As of 5 pm on Friday, December 21, 2018, the US Congress had not passed a federal government-funding bill. Congress must pass such a bill, and President Trump must sign it before midnight tonight to avoid a partial government shutdown. The President has stated repeatedly that he will not sign any funding bill that does not include funding for construction of a wall at the US-Mexico border. 

If a shutdown occurs, it will last until Congress passes a funding bill and President Trump signs it into law. A shutdown would not affect the continued employment of “essential personnel” (primarily those involved in law enforcement or the maintenance of federal property), nor the operation of those programs that are already sufficiently funded to continue or are fee-based and therefore self-sustaining. Most immigration-related programs fall into the latter two categories, minimizing the impact of a shutdown, at least initially. The Department of Labor (DOL) has secured funding through September 30, 2019, allowing Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) and PERM Labor Certification Applications to be filed during that period, even in the event of a shutdown. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is a fee-based immigration benefit provider, and generally it is not dependent on appropriations. Therefore, as with prior shutdowns, we expect USCIS to continue operations and adjudicating most types of cases. 

However, some USCIS programs operate based on appropriated funds. These include E-Verify, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Central Program, Conrad 30 J-1 doctors, and non-minister religious workers. These programs may be suspended or otherwise impacted by a shutdown. We will provide further updates about the impact of a shutdown on these particular programs following announcements by USCIS. 

While visa processing at US Consulates abroad is fee-based, the US State Department may see a slowdown or even cessation of these services due to backlogs created within the department until funding legislation is passed. 

Stay tuned for further alerts as this fluid situation continues to unfold.

We will provide further updates regarding this significant issue as it develops. Please contact your Mintz immigration attorney with any questions.


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Susan J. Cohen

Member / Founder and Chair Emeritus, Immigration Practice

Susan J. Cohen is Chair of Mintz's Immigration Practice and a nationally recognized Immigration lawyer. She helps corporate clients manage immigration challenges. Susan is an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) member and she's contributed to state and federal immigration regulations.