What Happens If the Government Shuts Down? – Updated 9/30/13

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has requested information from the federal government agencies involved in the immigration system for updates on their contingency plans in case of a government shutdown. A possible government shutdown could happen as early as October 1, 2013, the beginning of the new fiscal year 2014 (FY2014). AILA has reported that they have not received any updated information at this time. They suggested reviewing the shutdown plans for the last threatened federal government shutdown, which was in 2011.

Below is an excerpt from MVP Law Group’s original blog post on the subject dated (4/8/11).


In general, if the government shuts down for budgetary reasons, all but “essential” government are furloughed and not allowed to work. So what does this mean for immigration agencies?

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services): A couple of shutdown threats back, a USCIS official stated at a stakeholder engagement that USCIS (other than the human touches on E-Verify) would not need to shut down, since all of the agency, other than E-Verify, is funded by fees. However, it is not clear that this is the case, and at least one local office has indicated that it is working on its shutdown plan. AILA will update this information as they get more information.

DOS (Department of State): If there is a shutdown, the result for DOS will likely be the same as it was in the 1996 government closing. Then, the only visa issuance being done was for some diplomats and for “life or death” situations. As DOS is wont to say “a really, really important business meeting is not life or death.”

CBP (Customs and Border Patrol): Inspection and law enforcement are considered “essential personnel,” though staffing may be more limited than usual. The borders will be open, and CBP is unsure of how the shutdown will affect the processing of applications filed at the border.

EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review): EOIR has indicated that personnel who are not considered “essential” will be furloughed, but that the detained docket would likely continue in operation. (Updated as of 9/30/2013)

DOL (Department of Labor): In the event of a government shutdown, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) will neither accept nor process any applications or related materials it receives. (Updated as of 9/30/2013)

Other agencies will be added, and the above updated, as AILA obtains more information.

Source of Information:

– AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11040730 (posted 4/7/11)
– AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11040730 (posted 9/ 25/13)

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