In the early morning of January 20th, officials in Congress and the White House announced that the federal government would shut down. The shutdown came after the Senate failed to pass legislation approving federal spending for the next year. To enable the operations of the federal government, including major bureaucratic agencies like the Department of Labor (DOL), both houses of Congress must agree upon and pass legislation to fund the government for limited period of time. Over the years, Congress has become less efficient in passing funding legislation, passing appropriations on a yearly basis as opposed to long term. Therefore, the recent shutdown occurred due to an ongoing political debate in Congress that inhibited negotiations on annual federal spending.
Although Senate Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement Monday afternoon to fund the government for the next three weeks, a looming government shutdown remains for February 8th. With government agencies closed, many people with pending visa applications are uncertain about the upcoming spending vote. Here is what to expect if the government shuts down again in February:
Timeline of DOL Applications Shift
Since the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) is associated with the Department of Labor (DOL), employees are furloughed (or prevented from working) during the shutdown. Prior to the shutdown, OFLC reported an increase in the number of LCAs, therefore a long-term shut down could create a substantial backlog. Any application submitted during a shutdown will be processed at the time that the government reopens. Thus, permanent labor certification applications (PERM) submitted by employers (either through mail or hand delivery) during the shutdown will not process through OFLC until the government reopens. The iCERT website that is used for the online PERM submission also is shut down. Therefore, applications with timely recruitment or prevailing wage determinations may be out of date once the government reopens. Previously in 2013, employers were given an extension for necessary recruitment or prevailing wage determinations if the shutdown delayed submission of PERM. Applicants should note that OFLC will not have access to email, and therefore will not be able to respond to requests or questions during a shutdown.
USCIS, CBP, & DOS
USCIS is a fee-funded agency with the exception of E-Verify and will remain open during a shutdown, however E-Verify will not be available. Due to national security concerns, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will still operate normally during any shut down. Similarly, Department of State (DOS) which deals with the Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and generally are not impacted by the shutdown but since the embassy operations are not fee-funded so visas can be affected, and the consular posts will generally only handle diplomatic visas and “life or death” emergencies.
If you have any concern regarding the potential impacts of a shutdown on your application, please feel free to schedule a consultation with our office.