What The Shutdown Means for Immigration

What happens to my case now that the government is shut down? It depends on what kind of case you have and where the case is in process. Many different agencies play a part in the immigration process  

The Department of Labor handles threshold issues for non-immigrant visas (like LCAs for H1Bs) and PERMs (the first step in many employment based applications for permanent residence). It is currently funded through September 2019, so those processes should not be impacted by the shutdown.  

Visa and passport operations within the Department of State are fee-based and should not be immediately impacted by the shutdown. These functions, however, need to be watched closely.  

Immigration court (EOIR) falls within the Department of Justice. In the past, detained dockets (court for individuals in custody) have remained active. Non-detained dockets (court for individuals not in custody) however, have been shut down. This means that non-detained courts are usually closed, there are no hearings, and no filings can be made. Because there are severe consequences for failing to attend a hearing, it is very important to double and triple check to make sure that you do not have a hearing.

The Department of Homeland Security is one of the departments affected by the shutdown, but many of the immigration-related components continue anyway. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will remain open, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—the agency that grants benefits—is a fee-funded agency, so it is generally in operations. Some programs, such as e-verify, have been impacted in the past. This means that work cards, visa petitions, and applications for adjustment of status will continue to be processed.  

Inspection and law enforcement personnel within CBP are considered essential, so ports of entry and border activities remain open and in operation. ICE enforcement and removal operations also continue in a shutdown. This means that even in a shutdown, individuals are expected to report as scheduled and will still be processed for proceedings and removal. 

The longer a shutdown remains in effect, the more that operations of all agencies—including those that are fee-based and those operations that are considered essential—will be impacted. We’ll monitor the situation, and if you have immigration-related matters in the works, you should too. If you are unsure about your situation and how it is affected, speak to an experienced immigration attorney, who can help. 

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