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Immigration Agencies in Case of a Government Shutdown

by JP Sarmiento on April 9, 2011

On April 8, 2011, AILA released an update on what would happen to different immigration-related government agencies in case the government shuts down. Please note that if the budgetary issues are not resolved, the government plans to shut down at midnight on April 9. As a consequence, the government claims that all but “essential” government functions are not allowed to work.

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Service)

The USCIS processes permanent resident, naturalization, and non-immigrant  visa petitions, among others. It is the agency that conducts interviews, reviews applications, and makes decisions on green card and citizenship applications. The USCIS has indicated that in the event of a shutdown, they will continue to operate except for the E-Verify section.

DOS (Department of State)

The DOS deals with most visa and consular processing applications. J-1 waivers and visa petitions for people outside the United States go through them. If a shutdown occurs, only applications related to diplomats and “life or death” situations would continue to function.

CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)

The CBP guards the port of the entries – shipping ports, borders, and airports. They inspect and decide on whether a person gets in the United States, and enforce applicable immigration laws when someone is inadmissible. Inspection and law enforcement personnel are deemed “essential” personnel, but a shutdown will also limit their staff. The ramifications of a shutdown are thus uncertain.

EOIR (Executive Officer for Immigration Review)

The EOIR is the immigration court system. Immigration Courts, judges, clerks, and the Board of Immigration Appeals all fall under this branch. A general warning that “non-essential” personnel would not be allowed to work has been set forth, and that the only aspect of operations that is certain to continue is the detained docket, which is considered an essential function.

DOL (Department of Labor)

The Department of Labor is one of the first agencies involved in employment-based petitions, as they review and make determinations on the Labor Certification process. Personnel would certainly not be available to respond to emails or other inquiries, but it is yet to be determined if the ICERT and PERM functions would shut down.

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