The Government Shutdown and Its Impact on Immigration

By Attorney Cynthia Milian

A government shutdown occurs when Congress fails to pass or the president does not sign appropriations legislation that funds several government operations and agencies.  Here are five things you need to know about how a government shutdown can impact immigration:

  1. USCIS: If you have a biometrics appointment or interview scheduled during a government shutdown, you should attend. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)is funded primarily through application filing fees, and it is expected that most of its services and centers would operate normally.
  2. Immigration courts: In past government shutdowns, non-detained courts have closed while detained courts have remained open. We expect the same will happen if a potential shutdown occurs.
  3. ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will continue to operate during a government shutdown. The Student Exchange and Exchange(SEVIS), the online system tracking F-1 students and J-1 visitors, would remain unaffected because of the SEVIS fees that supports their own operations.
  4. Visa and passport operations are also funded by fees and should not be impacted drastically by a potential shutdown.  However, fewer staffing levels may impact service and processing times.
  5. If you were planning to travel abroad to renew a non-immigrant visa, a shutdown could delay your return to the United States. If you are planning to travel outside of the country and need a new visa stamp to reenter the United States try to get your consular interview as soon as possible.  The government has until December 21 to approve a spending budget, therefore any interview appointments scheduled before or after this date can be delayed or eventually cancelled.

Updated 12/27/18

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