As the Democrats and Republicans of congress continue to negotiate a compromise to the federal budget that is set to expire Friday, April 6th, 2011 at midnight, immigration attorneys in Columbus, Ohio have turned their attention to how a government shutdown will affect the normal adjudication of visas. Visa applications, including employment based I-140 and H-1B petitions as well as family based petitions including I-130 and I-485 applications, filed in the United States are usually adjudicated at one of the USCIS service centers throughout the country. These service centers are staffed by immigration officers who adjudicate visa applications. These immigration officers are employees of the federal government and could be furloughed if the federal government shuts down for lack of congressional funding.
Historically, government shutdowns have resulted in delays for visa adjudication. The reason for the potential delay is based upon the wording of the federal Antideficiency Act. This law states that in the event of a governmental shutdown the only governmental employees that will be permitted to continue to carry out their work will be employees who prevent or respond to “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The law goes on to state that “ongoing, regular functions of government the suspension of which would not imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property” are not to continue their operations during a shutdown. Officers who adjudicate visas at the service centers will most likely not be deemed essential to the protection of safety or property and will be furloughed. With no-one to adjudicate visas, visa applications will be backlogged to some extent. However, other aspects of United States immigration policy will continue to be enforced. Customs and border patrol officials, for example, should remain active.