Relocating employees abroad in the midst of a government shutdown will likely cause some mobility programs to experience significant delays. It is unknown how significant the delays will be, but mobility managers and relocation providers, such as Lexicon, should monitor the situation closely to make the necessary modifications in an effort to lessen the impact of the shutdown on both transferees and clients.
Nearly 800,000 to 1 million federal employees are furloughed and government offices and national parks have closed. This is the first time the government has shut down in nearly 18 years. The last time it did, the stalemate lasted 21 days during the Clinton administration.
Current reports of the closing indicate that the State Department would have the ability to continue issuing visas and passports due to a recent budget change. However, some applications could still be delayed.
The Department of Labor will suspend all foreign labor certification operations during a shutdown. USCIS will continue to process applications and petitions, with some delays possible. During the last government shut down of 1995-1996, 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day, while 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
The following is the latest information on the effect of a shutdown on immigration operations from our immigration partner, Fragomen.
Department of Labor (DOL)
DOL’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification will suspend operations in the event of a shutdown. No PERMs, labor condition applications, prevailing wage requests or applications for temporary labor certification will be processed during this time. The PERM and iCERT websites will not accept online PERM, LCA or prevailing wage applications. The agency will likewise be unable to process PERM audit responses or other submissions by mail.
DOL has not yet announced whether it will offer a grace period for employers unable to file timely applications or audit responses during the shutdown. DOL has made such accommodations in the past, most recently in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but is not likely to provide information on shutdown-related extensions until after its operations resume.
USCIS will continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits, with some processing delays possible. Because DOL LCA operations will be suspended, employers planning to file H-1B, E-3 and H-1B1 extensions – for which a DOL-certified LCA is required – may be affected. In the past, USCIS has temporarily accepted extensions without certified LCAs in some circumstances, but has not yet announced whether it will do so during a federal shutdown.
The E-Verify system will not accept or process employment verification queries during a shutdown.
USCIS’s SAVE system, which is used by government agencies to verify the immigration status of applicants for benefits, could be affected by the shutdown. If SAVE is suspended, foreign nationals applying for driver’s licenses and other state or federal benefits could experience delays.
Department of State (DOS)
DOS is planning to process visa applications as long as application filing fees are available to fund consular operations. However, if the shutdown persists and fee funding is depleted, the agency could suspend visa processing or limit it to emergency cases only. Foreign nationals planning to submit visa applications should do so as soon as possible to avoid delays.
Customs and Border Protection
Inspection functions at U.S. borders and ports of entry will remain in operation, though CBP has not yet announced whether it will process immigration applications at the border, such as applications for initial TN or blanket L status submitted by Canadian nationals.
Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration will not process applications for Social Security numbers or replacement cards during a shutdown.