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Potential Government Shutdown


During a conference in Washington, DC on April 8, 2011, USCIS indicated that it will be open with business as usual next week even if the U.S. federal government shuts down due to failed budget negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress.  USCIS is a fee-based government agency, and therefore a government shutdown should not affect the agency’s normal operations, according to USCIS.  E-Verify, however, will not be operational during a government shutdown.  Employers will have to plan accordingly for new hires.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will continue to operate normally at all ports of entry and border posts because these employees are considered essential government personnel, necessary for national security.  However, CBP officials at the conference indicated that CBP headquarters will have very limited operation during the shutdown.

Additionally, officials at the conference indicated that the U.S. Department of Labor could be subject to a potential shutdown, potentially disrupting Labor Condition Application (LCA) filings and Applications for Permanent Employment Certification (PERM).  The officials stated that it is not clear if an LCA or a PERM could even be filed if the DOL is shutdown.   Because the systems require funding to run, employers should assume that they will not be available. USCIS is not yet sure if they will allow H-1B petitions to be filed without LCAs due to the shutdown.

At this time, we are unsure if the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), which operates the immigration courts throughout the U.S., will close due to the shutdown.  EOIR has been advised to “put its shutdown plans in place.” However, EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue in operation.

Finally, the State Department also would be subject to a government shutdown.  American citizen services will continue overseas.  However, visa issuances and consular interviews probably will only be given for “life or death” circumstances, as was the case during the last shutdown in 1996.  Aliens travelling overseas should note that their consular interviews could be interrupted and seriously delayed.

If Congress is unable to reach an agreement by tonight, the federal government will close at midnight on Saturday April 9, 2011.

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