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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Muller

What does the government shutdown mean for my visa application?

33 days and counting.... Every day I receive calls from worried clients regarding the status of their visa or citizenship application. 

First and foremost, it is important to understand that it is a partial shutdown of the government.  The essential services continue to be provided. 

Second,  the immigration system carries on more or less as usual. That’s because  most immigration-related agencies are funded directly by user fees, and  don’t depend on Congress (or taxpayers) for their budget.   Specifically, visa applications continue to be processed, and usually  embassy appointments for issuing visas remain honored.  However, US  embassy websites throughout the world are not always updated, and a  prolonged shutdown could affect visa issuance by the State Department  (DS260 form). 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)  made clear in its official statement that the shutdown “does not affect  USCIS’s fee-funded activities. Our offices will remain open, and all individuals should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled.” 

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is also funded by user fees and relatively untouched by a government shutdown. 

Unlike  the family-based immigration system, many employment-based visa  processes (e.g. H-1B visas) can get delayed during some government  shutdowns, because they depend on labor certifications from the U.S.  Department of Labor (DOL). Employees of DOL are not designated  “essential,” nor are they funded by user fees, so they would be  furloughed and unable to work during a shutdown—except that this  particular shutdown won’t affect the Department of Labor, since it’s not  one of the departments whose funding is about to lapse. 

In  addition, the shutdown affects and eventually closes national parks and  museums, cuts off key sources of income for government contractors,  delays payments of housing subsidies, and slows or stops routine  public-health inspections of food and environmental hazards. 

However,  because some government employees can be required to come to work  without pay, some chose to call in sick.  For instance Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees have been reporting unscheduled  absences (i.e. sick) at twice the rate of last year at the same time  (7.4% on January 22, 2019 vs. 3.2% on January 23, 2018).

Each immigration case being unique, if you have any worry regarding the status of  your application, please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance. 


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