As an immigration lawyer specializing in deportation defense, my Boston office has been inundated with calls from clients. Everyone wants to know how the partial government shutdown that went into effect on October 1, 2013 will impact their immigration case. The answer depends on what specific type of immigration case you have since the shutdown will affect certain aspects of some immigration agencies, but not others.
So, based on agency, here’s my handy guide:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
If you’ve applied for a green card, naturalization, a work permit, or other immigration benefit with USCIS, then I have good new for you: the shutdown will have no impact on your immigration case. This is because USCIS operates on a fee-for-services model, which is outside of the federal appropriation funding model. INFOPASS is operating as usual. Two exceptions are that E-Verify and the USCIS Office of Ombudsman will remain closed during the shutdown.
Immigration Court/Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)
Unlike USCIS, which remains largely unaffected, the government shutdown throws our Immigration Court into chaos. Detained cases are being processed throughout the shutdown. Immigration Judges Day and Shapiro will be conducting detained hearings. But the non-detained immigration cases in court will not proceed. On Friday, October 4, 2013, for instance, there will be no Immigration Judges hearing cases in Boston Immigration Court.
Immigration lawyers will not be permitted to review court files in Boston Immigration Court during the shutdown.
And exactly will happen to a non-detained immigration case in Immigration Court during the government shutdown? It’s very unclear. We are venturing into unknown waters. Little or no information has been forthcoming from EOIR, the national Immigration Court agency. No one knows how the non-detained docket will be managed after the shutdown ends.
In the face of so much uncertainty, my best advice is to follow the Boy Scouts motto: be prepared. If you have a hearing, make sure you are ready to appear. Meet all filing deadlines and call-up dates. Timely file all relevant motions.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
ICE detention and removal operations, including the posting of immigration bonds, will continue without any impact during the shutdown. Office of Chief Counsel, the Trial Attorney Unit, will continue to work on detained cases only.
A government shutdown won’t impact Department of State consular posts that issue F-1 visas to foreign student. The SEVIS system will function as usual. You will still be issued your I-20 and can still obtain work permits for use with CPT and OPT. Applications to reinstate student status will still be processed by USCIS, which the shutdown doesn’t affect.
We know that the government shutdown will end. But we don’t know when. How the shutdown impact your immigration case may change as the situation evolves. Please contact me if you have questions or need help with an immigration issue.