The partial government shutdown is now well into its 3rd week with no clear end in sight. While most immigration related government functions remain operational, a prolonged shutdown may have broad impact on immigration related matters. Because various U.S. government departments and agencies are involved in handling U.S. immigration matters, below is an outline of the current status of operations as impacted by the partial shutdown.
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services – Most CIS Petitions will continue to be processed, except EB-5
The U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) adjudication functions are funded by the filing fees associated with petitions and applications for immigration benefits. Due to the independent source of operational funds for CIS operations, most CIS adjudication activities continue unabated, though perhaps with delays.
Due to a lapse in congressional reauthorization, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program expired on Dec. 22, 2018. The EB-5 Regional Center program continues to accept I-526 Immigrant Petitions by Alien Entrepreneur applications during the government shutdown, however they are not adjudicating cases until the government fully reopens. The CIS will not accept new Forms I-924, Application for Regional Center Designation, until the program is reauthorized.
Suspension of I-9 E-Verify program
The E-Verify program, including all support services and program functionality, has been shut down and will remain unavailable until the government reopens. During this period all normal E-Verify deadlines will be extended until the program is back to operational. The suspension of E-Verify does not affect Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification requirements and all newly hired employees are required to complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 by the first day of work and employers are still required to complete Section 2 of the Form I-9 by the third business day after the employee begins work. Employers are obligated to comply with all Form I-9 requirements.
Department of State (DOS) – Remains Operational with Potential Delay of Visas at Consular Posts
DOS interviews visa applicants and adjudicates visa applications abroad. While the DOS remains operational at this time, it is likely that visa applications will be impacted by a prolonged shutdown, though essential U.S. Citizen services and higher level diplomatic functions should continue uninterrupted.
Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) – ICE Enforcement Operations Continue
ICE is charged with interior enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. ICE continues to be operational, though lower-priority activities and new investigations or enforcement actions may be delayed.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) – Border and Airport Inspections Continue
CBP is charged with enforcement of U.S. immigration and customs laws along the U.S. borders and at U.S. airports and seaports of entry. CBP officers will continue enforcement activities as well as the inspection of foreign nationals entering the United States through the ports of entry, including the adjudication of Canadian TN and L-1 visa applications.
Issuance of electronic I-94s, however, may be delayed, and CBP has discontinued deferred inspections. Due to the closure of CBP deferred inspections, which corrects I-94s incorrectly issued by CBP, all foreign nationals are reminded to check their I-94 records and, if not yet issued, to check the entry stamp put in their passport by CBP upon admission to the U.S. For example, if a foreign national enters on an H-1B, but CBP incorrectly shows the admission as on a B-visitor visa then the foreign national will not be able to work while in B-status.
Foster will continue to monitor developments related to the partial government shutdown and will make updates available via Immigration Updates© on our website at www.fosterglobal.com.