Does the government shutdown affect immigration proceedings?

On Saturday, January 20, a partial U.S. government shutdown began following the inability of Democrats and Republicans to reach an agreement to renew the budget. This means that many government agencies will be affected, as thousands of employees will be furloughed and not allowed to work until the situation is resolved.

However, that is not the case for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), because much of the agency's funding comes from fees charged for immigration processing. Therefore, the funding disruption that has forced the government shutdown does not affect USCIS activities that are funded by fees.

USCIS offices will remain open

The USCIS on its website reaffirms that its offices will remain open and indicates that all applicants must show up for their interviews and appointments as scheduled.

USCIS announcement on government shutdown


DACA Renewals

USCIS today assured that they will continue to process renewals of DACA - the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program - during the partial government shutdown until the pending court case over its cancellation is resolved.

Closure affects some programs under USCIS 

USCIS will suspend the processing of several programs that rely on government funding until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress.

These include:

  • E-Verify
  • EB-5 Regional Immigrant Investor Center Program (not the EB-5 program itself)
  • J-1 Physicians under Conrad Program 30
  • Non-ministerial religious workers

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE agents will continue to perform their duties, enforce immigration laws and conduct removal (deportation) operations during the partial government shutdown. ICE attorneys will focus their efforts on cases of immigrants in detention.

ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices will not be affected, because SEVP is funded by fees.

Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Inspection and enforcement agents are considered essential and will therefore remain in their posts.

Ports of entry will be open. However, it is possible that the partial closure will affect the processing of applications submitted at the border.

Immigration Court Cases

The Immigration Court will continue to process detained persons' cases around the country.

Impact on foreign worker petitions

The shutdown is affecting U.S. employers who wish to apply for temporary and permanent foreign workers under various visa categories, including:

  • H-2A
  • H-2B
  • H-1B

The system for processing applications for labor certification and conditional certification is not functioning.

Visa processing abroad

The State Department will continue to process previously scheduled visa and passport services at its consulates and embassies abroad during the shutdown and as the situation permits. Its website will not be updated on a regular basis until full operations resume. The only exception will be to update emergency and security information.

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. continue negotiations to prevent the shutdown from dragging on and affecting the functioning of the government.