The shutdown of the federal government does affect applying for certain immigration visas. Fortunately, many services provided by USCIS, including processing of various petitions or applications for immigration benefits, will continue as they are fee-based. Therefore, applying to USCIS for non-immigrant petitions or permanent residence will continue at this time. USCIS offices are also open for interviews and appointments as scheduled.
Unfortunately, certain types of applications for immigration benefits are affected because they involve the U.S. Department of Labor, which is shutdown. Petitions to seek H-1B or E-3 status for employees cannot be completed at this time because a necessary component of these petitions is obtaining a labor condition application from the Department of Labor. Similarly, labor certification applications for employment-based permanent residence cannot be completed because the DOL is closed and therefore not accepting applications. While employers can complete preliminary work such as gathering information and documents, H-1B, E-3 and labor certification applications cannot move forward to completion until the DOL reopens.
The E-verify system is also shutdown. Therefore, employers will not be able to verify employment eligibility of any new hires or take any action in E-verify. The Department of Homeland Security has suspended the 3 day rule for E-verify cases that are affected by the shutdown and indicated that it will provide additional guidance once the federal government is reopened. We remind employers to be sure to continue to complete their form I-9’s for new hires within 3 days of hiring.
Immigration courts around the country are also affected. The court has announced that it will continue to hear cases of individuals in immigration detention, but is suspending all other functions due to the shutdown. Cases docketed during this time will be reset for future hearing dates.
The Department of State has announced that visa operations at U.S. consulates abroad will continue as they are fee-based.
We will provide further information as we receive it.