Impact of the United States Federal Shutdown

  • October 12, 2013
  • Paralegal

The federal government shutdown that began on October 1 will hopefully have ended by the time of this article’s publication. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the shutdown had an immediate impact on the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) which processes critical immigration-related applications. These include the following procedures:

-Foreign labor certification or PERM operations were suspended.  The DOL stopped PERM operations and has not processed any further cases since Oct 1 and will not process cases until the shutdown ends.  When normal operations resume, employers should expect delays as the agency works through its case backlogs.

It is critical to file a PERM application before the 180 day advertising period expires. It can also be important in many cases to file the PERM application early enough so that the employee can extend their H-1B beyond the 6-year limit. The shutdown could affect these situations.

– The iCERT system is used for processing the Labor Condition Application (LCA).  A certified LCA is required for filing all H-1B visa petitions. However, no LCAs were processed during the shutdown since the iCERT system went offline.

The impact of DOL Shutdown on H-1B filings: employers are not able to file H-1B petitions without an approved LCA. Therefore, H-1B petitions cannot be filed during the shutdown unless an LCA was certified before Oct 1. This can have a serious impact on workers whose H-1B extensions must be filed before their current H-1B visa status expires.

It is critical to a worker’s continuing employment that an H-1B extension by filed in a timely manner.  In the past, USCIS relaxed it rules and accepted H-1B filings without certified LCAs when DOL operations were suspended or delayed.  But as of the time of this article, USCIS has not announced whether it will do so during the present shutdown.  In any event, the shutdown is likely to cause backlogs and delays at the labor department in these areas even after the shutdown is over.

Interesting to note is that the US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) was still operated during the government shutdown. This is because the USCIS is primarily funded by application fees, while the DOL depends on funding directly from the federal government.

Certified LCAs are also required for processing other visas such as E-3 and H-1B1 visas.

National Visa Center (NVC) operations also appear to be suspended during the shutdown. The NVC is a State Department office that coordinates the processing of immigrant (green card) cases with the U.S. Embassies abroad.