The Federal Government Shutdown: Implications for Immigration

Iandoli Desai & Cronin, P.C. are actively following the ongoing government shutdown and its impact on various areas of U.S. immigration law. Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but "essential" personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.

When it comes to immigration, agencies that would be impacted by a government shutdown include the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration-related components, including:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS);

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP); and

  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A shutdown also affects immigration-related services normally provided by other federal agencies, including:

  • U.S. Department of Justice (EOIR);

  • U.S. Department of State (DOS); and

  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).


The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS's fee-funded activities.

USCIS offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled.

USCIS will continue to accept petitions and applications for benefit requests, except as noted below. Some USCIS programs, however, will either expire or suspend operations, or otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program (not the EB-5 Program): Regional centers are a public or private economic unit in the U.S. that promotes economic growth. USCIS designates regional centers for participation in the Immigrant Investor Program. The EB-5 Program will continue to operate.

E-Verify: This free internet-based system allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.

Conrad 30 Waiver Program for J-1 Medical 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 U.S.; 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 to permanent resident status in the U.S. to perform religious work in a full-time, compensated position.


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 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.


Detained cases are being heard. Non-detained cases scheduled during the "shut down" period will be rescheduled. The acting EOIR Court Administrator in Boston, MA has been furloughed so there likely won't be any action on asylum clock letters.


The DOL will also not be impacted by a government shutdown. On September 28, 2018, President Trump signed a minibus appropriations bill funding DOL through the end of September 30, 2019.