Breaking News 01.22.2018

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Most USCIS Services Unaffected; DOL Services Offline

The Federal Government Shutdown has entered its third day after Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on Federal spending. While many Federal agencies have closed or ceased operations until further notice, fee-based agencies (such as USCIS) remain in service. The shutdown affects the immigration-related agencies in the following ways:

USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services): The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS’ fee-funded activities. USCIS offices will remain open, and all applicants should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled. However, several USCIS programs will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

  • EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program. Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the United States that promote economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program.
  • E-Verify. This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States.
  • Conrad 30 J-1 doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the United States; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.
  • Non-minister religious workers. This special immigrant category allows non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to immigrate or adjust status in the United States to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.

DOS (Department of State): Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and should not be impacted by a lapse in appropriations, but operating status and funding will need to be monitored closely. If visa operations are affected, consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.

DOL (Department of Labor): The OFLC (Office of Foreign Labor Certification) has gone offline and ceased processing all applications, and personnel are not available to respond to e-mail or other inquiries. OFLC’s web-based systems, iCERT and PERM, are inaccessible, and BALCA dockets will be placed on hold.

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

ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement): 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 (Executive Office of Immigration Review – “Immigration Court”): EOIR’s detained docket is typically considered an essential function and will therefore continue to operate. Non-detained immigration courts across the country are reportedly shutting down at noon today until further notice. It is unclear if the non-detained courts will continue to accept filings during the shutdown.

CIS Ombudsman: The DHS Office of the CIS Ombudsman has closed and will not accept any inquiries through its online case intake system.

Final TPS Re-registration Periods Open for El Salvador and Haiti

The Secretary of Homeland Security has terminated the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for El Salvador and Haiti, but has extended the end date for TPS until 2019 “to allow for an orderly transition” for Salvadoran and Haitian nationals to arrange for a change in immigration status or depart the U.S. TPS for El Salvador will be terminated effective September 9, 2019; TPS for Haiti will terminated effective July 22, 2019.

Haitians and Salvadorans protected by TPS are eligible to apply to extend their TPS designation and employment authorization through their respective termination dates. The TPS re-registration periods for both Haiti and El Salvador run from January 18, 2018 – March 19, 2018. Information on the TPS designation and termination for Haiti can be found here. For El Salvador, click here.

Many of the individuals currently protected by TPS have other immigration benefits available and should contact a qualified immigration attorney right away to find out their options.

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