By this weekend, the federal government's funding is set to run out and unless there is a breakthrough in negotiations between members of the two parties, we could see a shutdown for the first time in more than 15 years. How will this affect immigration services? While we don't have a lot of experience with government shutdowns in this country, we expect that only "essential" services will continue. That means law enforcement, fire fighting, the military, utilities and prisons. Air travel is considered essential so air traffic controllers and TSAs will continue to work. And so will agencies that are funded by application and user fees.
So which immigration services are to be hit? According to AOL News, the State Department will be one of the highest profile agencies to be affected:
The U.S. tourism and airline industries reportedly lost millions of dollars after the 1995-96 shutdowns halted visa and passport processing. Approximately 200,000 U.S. passport applications went unprocessed during the shutdowns and 20,000 to 30,000 foreign visa applications were unprocessed.
Emergency passport and visa processing should be available during the shutdown.
USCIS Service Centers and local district offices should operate as normal because they are funded primarily through application fees.
It's not clear yet what's going to happen at the Department of Labor. But it is very possible the iCert portal used for labor certifications and H-1B labor condition applications could be closed during the shutdown and H-1B processing could be delayed.
ICE facilities will continue to detain people and the court systems - including presumably immigration courts - will operate as normal. But according to AOL, hiring at these agencies may be frozen:
The last shutdown had a number of consequences for law enforcement and public safety operations, including reported cancellation of hiring 400 border patrol agents and cancellation of federal law enforcement recruiting programs.
Processing of immigrants and non-immigrants at ports-of-entry should continue, but there could be staffing cutbacks that could cause delays.
Of course, we're bound to be surprised by what develops and I'll try to report to readers news as it becomes available. I'd also welcome reports on what people are learning on their own.