What Happens If the Government Shuts Down? #Immigration

From the American Immigration Lawyers Association:

From September 25, 2013: AILA Liaison has reached out to government agencies for an update on contingency plans due to the possibility of a government shutdown on or after October 1, 2013. To date, no information in response has been received. It is reasonable to believe, however, agency plans in development in the event of a government shutdown next week will mirror plans developed in anticipation of a government shutdown in 2011. For example, many of the USCIS functions will continue, since they are primarily funded through user fees. In contrast, because they are funded through appropriations, expect DOL functions to be interrupted. We will post further information as it is released.


As Congress continues its budgetary deadlock, the possibility of a government shutdown looms larger by the minute. If Congress is unable to reach accord on Friday, the government will close at midnight, Saturday April 9.

In general, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but “essential” government are furloughed and not allowed to work. So what does this mean for immigration agencies?

USCIS: Update: USCIS has confirmed to AILA Liaison that it will be operating, except for E-Verify, if the government does shut down.

DOS Update: DOS confirmed to AILA Liaison that if there is a shutdown, the only visa processing will be for “life or death” emergencies. In prior budget-related shutdowns, DOS has continued to provide diplomatic visas and has been wont to say “a really, really important business meeting is not life or death.”

CBP: Inspection and law enforcement are considered “essential personnel,” though staffing may be more limited than usual. The borders will be open, and CBP is unsure of how the shutdown will affect the processing of applications filed at the border.

EOIR: EOIR has been advised to “put its shutdown plans in place.” As with other agencies, personnel who are not considered “essential” will be furloughed. EOIR has indicated that the detained docket would likely be considered an essential function and would therefore be able to continue in operation.

DOL: Update: OFLC confirmed that it would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown. DOL is making plans for a possible shutdown. If there is a shutdown, DOL personnel will not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries.

Other agencies will be added, and the above updated, as we obtain more information.

About David Leopold
Past President American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), In-the-Trenches practicing immigration Attorney, Blogger, Activist, Photographer, Educator, World Traveler. All opinions are my own.

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