What Happens If the Government Shuts Down – Updated!

During a General Federal Government Shutdown the government closes for budgetary reasons, all but “essential” personnel are furloughed! The following information is an overview of how the U.S. Government immigration-related agencies have operated during shutdown periods in the past.


UPDATE: Biden signs bill to avert partial government shutdown – AP News (apnews.com) 9/30/21


General Shutdown Information – U.S. Government immigration-related agencies: 

(Source of information: AILA Doc. No. 21092710)* 

USCIS: USCIS is a fee-funded agency so if the government shuts down, it is generally business as usual. The exception to this is those programs that receive appropriated funds – E-Verify, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, Conrad 30 J-1 doctors, and non-minister religious workers, which are suspended or otherwise impacted. 

  • Note that the EB-5 Regional Center Program sunset on June 30, 2021, and has not yet been reauthorized by Congress. 
  • In the past, when the government reopened, USCIS accepted late I-129 filings provided the petition was submitted with evidence that the primary reason for failing to timely file an extension of stay or change of status request was the government shutdown. 

DOS: Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and thus are not normally impacted by a lapse in appropriations. Consular operations can nevertheless be impacted, if there are insufficient fees to support operations at a particular post. In such a case, posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies. 

CBP: Inspection and law enforcement personnel are considered “essential.” Ports of entry will be open and processing of passengers will continue; however, processing of applications filed at the border may be impacted. 

ICE: ICE enforcement and removal operations will continue, and ICE attorneys will typically focus on the detained docket during a shutdown. The ICE Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) offices are unaffected since SEVP is funded by fees. 

EOIR: Immigration court cases on the detained docket will proceed during a lapse in congressional appropriations while non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date when funding resumes. Courts with detained dockets will receive all filings but will only process those involving detained dockets. Courts with only non-detained dockets will not be open and will not accept filings. Courts should issue an updated notice of hearing to respondents or representatives of record for reset hearings. Members may want to check with their local chapters for court-specific instructions. 

DOL: The OFLC would cease processing all applications in the event of a government shutdown, and personnel would not be available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC’s web-based systems, FLAG and PERM, would be inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold. 

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman would close and would not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.* 


Source of Information: 

AILA (AILA.org), 9/29/21, AILA Doc. No. 21092710: 

What Happens If the Government Shuts Down (2021 Edition) 

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