Friday, October 4, 2013

Government Shutdown – what does this mean for my immigration case?

As you have probably heard about all this week, the federal government is in a partial shutdown.   This is because Congress failed to pass a budget for the next fiscal year or even a continuing resolution to keep everything at the previous spending level.  Therefore, all parts of the government that rely on “discretionary” spending were not funded as of October 1st.  Many government agencies, national parks, head start programs, even the Panda Cam are currently closed because they have no money to keep their doors open.  Included in this shutdown are several agencies which directly and indirectly affect immigration cases.

Executive Office for Immigration Review (“EOIR”) – Immigration Court

Immigration Court is currently only hearing detained cases.  Any alien who is detained will still have the right to speak to an Immigration Judge regarding case appeals, motions, federal court remands, and bonds. 

All other hearings (master calendar hearings as well as individual hearings) are canceled.  In the past, when the Kansas City Immigration Court was closed due to inclement weather, the Court mailed out new hearing dates for the canceled hearings.  Because of the high volume of cases and the already crowded dockets it is extremely likely that the new hearings will be scheduled in 2015.
The EOIR hotline is also closed. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”)

USCIS is still up and running because they are a fee-based service and don’t rely on government appropriations for their funding.  This means that we can still file applications, get receipts, have biometric appointments, have interviews, and make Infopass appointments.  However, the FBI is not currently processing background checks.
Without the FBI background checks, USCIS cannot complete the security clearance required for every application.  Without a security clearance, USCIS will not fully adjudicate cases.  Therefore, even though USCIS is still functioning, they are unable to issue approvals.  If your case is pending, expect to wait longer for a decision.

Department of State (“DOS”) – Consular Services

DOS is continuing as many “normal operations as possible” and has not made an official statement as to whether appointments or consular services will be delayed or suspended.   Passport operations, visa operations, and critical assistance to U.S. Citizens will continue.  If you have an appointment at the consulate, plan on attending that appointment.  However, it is possible that the FBI background check delay could affect the issuance of visas abroad.

Department of Labor (“DOL”)

For employment-based cases, the DOL has currently suspended all PERM processing and LCA processing.   This means that PERM applications cannot be filed and are not currently being processed.  Labor Condition Applications, or LCAs, cannot be submitted for new H-1B cases and are not currently being processed. 

So this means…what?

The government shutdown is delaying immigration cases.   The frustrating reality is that this didn’t have to happen.  It doesn’t have to continue to keep happening.  Every year Congress decides how to fund the government.  Every year the deadline is the same.  This year the House Republicans, after unsuccessfully exhausting every lawful way to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), refused to pass a budget unless Obamacare was defunded.  Politics aside, this is simply not the way to repeal a law.  The cost of this grandstanding is taking a very real toll on thousands of people currently navigating the immigration process. 

For more information:


By: Valerie K. Tarbutton
Associate Attorney

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