There are several government agencies affected by the current government shutdown. Presently, there are several ways that your H-1B petition, PERM application, or other employment-based processes may be affected. This is having a significant impact in several areas. Here is what we have learned so far.
US Department of Labor: H-1B, PERM, E Visa, etc.
The US Department of Labor (DOL) is one of the affected agencies, which is significantly involved in H-1B processing and PERM. The DOL office of foreign labor certification (OFLC) is not one of those agencies excepted from shutting down, and its employees have been furloughed. The shutdown of the OFLC has resulted in a halt in case processing of labor condition applications (LCAs), audit responses, prevailing wage applications, and permanent and temporary employment certification applications. Updates to the official DOL website have stopped as well. This means that if your H-1B petition is not yet ready to file with the USCIS because it is still being processed by the DOL, your case may not be processed until after the government shutdown has ended. That is unless the USCIS agrees to accept these cases, as it did during last year’s shutdown.
USCIS may or may not be accepting H-1B petitions without an approved LCA. During the last government shutdown, the USCIS has agreed to accept H-1B petitions filed without an approved LCA. However, it is unknown at the present time whether the USCIS will adopt the same policy for this current government shutdown. Our office is awaiting information from our sources as this situation develops.
Presently, all USCIS offices remain open and people should expect that their scheduled appointments and interviews will still take place. Activities that are based on filing fees are not affected by the government shutdown. Therefore, your H-1B petition or other immigrant or nonimmigrant visa application/petition should not be delayed if it has already been filed with the USCIS.
US Department of State (DOS): US Consular Offices and Embassies
The DOS has announced that it will continue as many normal operations as possible, but operations will be restricted. The DOS has advised that all US Consular Offices and US Embassies will remain 100% operational with the following exceptions. This operational status will cease once there are no longer sufficient funds to support operations. Passport agencies that are located in a government building that is affected by the government shutdown may become unsupported. The DOS said that a change in consular and embassy operations will be treated on a case-by-case basis.
DOL Administrative Law Judges
Administrative Law Judges in the DOL will not be permitted to conduct certain activities, including holding hearings. This means that your previously scheduled hearing would be canceled, and such hearings will not be given a new date until after the shutdown is over.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
ICE is still operational and is continuing its enforcement activities. However, ICE trial attorneys are only working on dockets involving detention during the government shutdown. Those foreign nationals who have an upcoming removal hearing should expect that this hearing will be canceled unless the foreign national is being detained by ICE.
US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)
Customs and Border Patrol agencies are currently operational. All ports of entry into the United States are currently open. However, the official CBP website is not being maintained and will not be updated during the government shutdown.
The operational status of all of these agencies may change at any time. Even if an agency was open as of today’s date, this does not mean that it has remained open, so checking on an agency’s operational status is recommended before proceeding with any petition or application.