How Is The Government Shutdown Impacting Immigration Services

In January 4, 2019
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Due to failure to pass a Congressional budget, the United States government has temporarily shut down with no end in sight. This is no doubt throwing many government functions such as immigration services into disarray, as only essential government services are operational during this time.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at airports and at port of entries continue to operate as usual, though without pay. The level of their functioning remains questionable given the treatment of asylum seekers at the border.

Immigration court backlogs continue to grow unabated. Most courts are not holding any non-detained hearings but continue to accept filings and expect immigration lawyers to meet deadlines, including the one-year bar for asylum filings. Many judges have returned to court to adjudicate cases of detainees in immigration custody without pay. Similarly, the Board of Immigration Appeals continues to accept filings and continues to expect immigration lawyers to meet deadlines.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement continues to arrest and detain individuals but functions such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and public affairs activities are suspended during this time.

Consular services in most countries remain operational though people are advised to check with the individual consulates responsible for their cases to see what services are available.

Because USCIS is fee-funded, it remains largely operational. People should continue to apply for affirmative benefits such as asylum and green cards and expect interviews to be scheduled per usual.

Some USCIS programs, however, will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program (not the EB-5 Program). Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the U.S. that promotes economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 Program will continue to operate.
  • E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.
  • Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 medical doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the U.S.; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
  • Non-minister religious workers. This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust to permanent resident status in the U.S. to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.

How has the shutdown impacted you?

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