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What Happens if the Government Shuts Down?

As budget negotiations continue, the current indications are that if Congress fails to come to an agreement before Friday, April 28, 2017, the most likely scenario will be a one to two week continuing resolution to buy lawmakers additional time to reach a deal. Though a government shutdown does not appear likely, until a deal is reached or a CR is passed, the threat always remains a possibility. Drawing on information from 2013, when the federal government closed for 16 days due to a budget impasse, here is an overview of how a shutdown would impact immigration-related agencies:

Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("CIS"): The CIS is a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify, so if the government shuts down, only E-Verify shuts down. Otherwise, it's business as usual.

U.S. Department of State ("DOS"): Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and "life or death" emergencies.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"): Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered "essential." The borders will be open, though the processing of applications filed at the border could be impacted.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"): ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program ("SEVP") offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees.

Executive Office for Immigration Review ("EOIR"): The EOIR's detained docket is typically considered an essential function and would therefore continue to operate. During the 2013 shutdown, EOIR continued to accept court filings, even in non-detained cases.

U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL"): The Office of Foreign Labor Certification ("OFLC") would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC's web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, would be inaccessible, and Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals ("BALCA") dockets will be placed on hold.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.

AILA Doc. No. 17042640.

Matthews Immigration Group exists to deliver high-value immigration strategies and solutions to its business and individual clientele throughout the United States. Contact our office today for assistance: 919.882.2026 / info@matthewsimmigration.com.

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