In light of recent events in the U.S., many of you may be asking yourself, what is a government shutdown and how does this effect me? Here is a quick summary of this complex situation –
The U.S. government has shut down as the U.S. Congress has not passed any short-term or long-term measures to fund the government beyond this past weekend. As a result, there is no funding available for U.S. government agencies outside of essential services or user-fee funded agencies or services. The shutdown may or may not impact an individual immigration case depending on the type of case and/or where the case is in processing. We currently have no information as to how long the shutdown could continue, but when there is a Congressional agreement and the passage of a measure to fund the government either temporarily or for the fiscal year, the government will resume all services. The following is how each agency is impacted as of the latest information we have on the government shutdown:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)
USCIS is a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify, so in a government shutdown, only E-Verify shuts down. The USCIS hotline and processing should continue for the time being without disruption.
Department of State/U.S. Embassies and Consulates (Visa Processing)
Visa and passport operations are fee-funded, so in a government shutdown there should not be any short-term effects to operations. We will keep you updated the longer there is a shutdown if there are any impacts on visa or consular services as it is possible that if the shutdown continues over a longer term, these services may be impacted.
Department of Labor (DOL) – VERY IMPORTANT FOR E-3 APPLICANTS
The DOL Office of Foreign Labor Certifications (OFLC) has ceased processing all applications in this government shutdown, and personnel will not be available to respond to email or other inquiries. All processes with OFLC, including Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) will not be processed and cannot be filed. The website to retrieve certified LCAs or to check processing on submitted applications has been shut down as well.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
CBP inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential,” so are not impacted by a shutdown and ports of entry will be open. Thus, travel to the U.S. should not be impacted and ESTA registrations online should remain open as it is also funded by user fees. However, certain other functions of CBP may be impacted.