Does the USCIS Stop Processing Petitions if the Federal Government Shuts Down?

As negotiations on Capitol Hill continue to reach agreement on a bill to fund operations of the U.S. federal government, many wonder whether U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will shut down. USCIS continues to operate even if the other agencies of the U.S. federal government experience a shut-down. This situation occurs because USCIS is a fee-funded agency, meaning that the fees for its operations arise primarily from fees collected from applicants. 

Washington, D.C. – January 19, 2018: As negotiations on Capitol Hill continue to reach agreement on a bill to fund operations of the U.S. federal government, employers and immigrants are frequently anxious about whether U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) will also shut-down.

The short answer to this concern is “no”, USCIS continues to operate even if the other agencies of the U.S. federal government experience a shut-down. This quirky situation occurs because USCIS is a fee-funded agency, meaning that the fees for its operations arise primarily from fees collected from applicants. Additionally, many functions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection) are also considered essential government services that are required to remain operational even if there is a shut-down. So, in the past, the USCIS has actually remained open for business during a government shut-down. The U.S. Department of Labor, however, is not so lucky: it has to shutter operations for lack of funding.

Readers from abroad may ask themselves: “How many times has the U.S. federal government shut down because of disagreement over funding?”. The answer to this question would require a much longer response than available in this report.

Negotiations continue with most observers expecting an agreement to keep the U.S. federal government operating through mid-February or mid-March of 2018.

I.A. Donoso & Associates, LLC, is a law firm based in Washington, D.C., and is recognized as a leading immigration law firm with recognized expertise in visas for EB-5 investors, professionals and academics.

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