The federal government is now in partial shutdown after Congress failed to pass a stopgap measure to keep funding going ahead of the January 20 deadline. How does this impact key immigration agencies?
During a shutdown, personnel funded by annual congressional appropriations are furloughed and not permitted to work. Exceptions are made for “essential” personnel. And the shutdown doesn’t apply to positions funder by user fees rather than annual appropriations.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): USCIS will continue to operate as usual, including accepting and adjudicating immigration-related applications and petitions. The reason USCIS personnel will continue working is that their positions are funded by user fees. (An exception is that E-Verify services are funded from the budget and will be suspended.)
Department of State (DOS): Visa operations are likely to continue during the shutdown. Nevertheless, past experiences with similar shutdowns suggest that any applications filed during this period may experience delays in processing. So it’s advisable to plan ahead and apply early. Passport operations may continue since they are user funded, but passport agencies located in a government building affected by a lapse in appropriations may be forced to shut down. Further clarification is needed from the agency as to how they will respond to the shutdown.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP): CBP officials are considered to be “essential.” Ports of entry will remain open, and inspection of noncitizens seeking to enter the U.S. will continue. However, the processing of certain TN and blanket L applications by Canadian nationals may be impacted.
International flights should not be canceled for lack of Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA) airport security officers or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air-traffic controllers.
We are monitoring the effects of the government-shutdown and will send updates as we receive more news.