The current government shutdown has caused both grief and confusion, especially those who are employed by the federal government or receiving government aid. Although the cause of the shutdown involves immigration (i.e. building a wall on the southern U.S. border), many immigration processes are still ongoing.
This blog post provides answers to the most frequently asked question about the government shutdown’s impact on immigration matters:
Question: Can I file an immigration petition during the shutdown?
Answer: Yes. Any petition for immigrant benefits (e.g. naturalization, permanent residence, and visa extensions) can still be filed since all offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are open. According to the agency, the lapse in annual government funding does not affect all “fee-funded” activities.
Q: I already filed a petition. What’s going to happen?
A: Despite the shutdown, your petition will still be reviewed.
Q: I have an interview scheduled with USCIS officials. Will it still happen?
A: Yes. Any scheduled interviews with immigration officials will still occur. All USCIS offices are open for interviews and appointments.
Q: I have a hearing scheduled in immigration court. Will it happen?
A: Unless your case involves an urgent deportation matter, most immigration courts throughout the United States are closed during the shutdown. If you have a hearing scheduled in immigration court, it will be postponed until further notice. Keep in mind, you should still prepare for your hearing and remain updated on any news.
Q: Is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) still active?
A: Yes. ICE will continue their detention and enforcement operations. Additionally, the ICE Community and Detainee Helpline is operational.
Q: Should I still go to my fingerprint appointment?
A: Yes. USCIS offices such as biometric processing centers will continue to take appointments during the shutdown. If you skip your fingerprint appointment, your case could experience a delay.
Q: What about my pending E-Verify case?
A: The E-Verify program is not open during the shutdown. If you have a pending case, USCIS has warned employers not to take any adverse actions against employees.
Q: Are passport services still available?
A: Yes; however, it is only for U.S. citizens.
Q: What immigration programs are not in operation during the shutdown?
A: EB-5 immigration investor program, visas for religious workers (non-ministers), and J-1 program for physicians.