If you had an upcoming appointment with USCIS, an immigration court date, or an interview, then here are some things you should know about how the government shutdown will affect your immigration case. First of all, if you have an attorney, listen to his advice. This article is not intended to substitute legal advice from a licensed attorney. Second, figure out what department you are dealing with. The shutdown affects all departments of the government differently. Depending on which department your upcoming appointment or deadline is with, you may still have to appear despite the closure.
My appointment was with USCIS
If you had an appointment with USCIS, such as interview or biometrics, you still need to go to avoid delays and possible denial of applications. The government shutdown will not affect your immigration case because USCIS is fee-funded and expected to operate normally. If you were planning on sending in new forms or applications, do so. Furthermore, if you have a deadline for a filing coming due, do not expect that deadline to be delayed by the shutdown.
I have a court case at the immigration courts
The government shutdown will affect your immigration case. Your court case may or may not be postponed. If you are detained, you should assume your case is moving forward. Court cases for detained persons are considered essential and should be still operating as scheduled. However, if you are not detained, you should check daily to see whether or not it is going to be heard despite the lack of a full staff. As of the time of writing this, the courts are no longer hearing non-detained cases. Still, check daily just in case.
Further, if your case is not heard because of the shutdown, you should expect to your new hearing date to be three to four years from now. The immigration courts have so much backlog that it would take something extraordinary to reschedule your case to a more reasonable future date. Some attorneys speculate that there may be a special session, but there is no guarantee. Keep an eye on your case status as soon as the shutdown ends. As of now, we can’t say for certain what will happen.
I have business with the National Visa Center or Department of State
If you have any business with the National Visa Center, they are likely still open as they are fee-funded. All other Department of State offices will slowly close over time if the shutdown is protracted. You should call the particular office you have business with a day before to ensure that they will remain open. If you are submitting anything online, it may not be seen until the government opens back up. Most websites are reporting at the top of the page that a lapse of appropriations means the website will not be updated. This, however, does not mean that the offices are not open.
ICE and Customs
If you had any business with ICE or Customs, you should still expect to go. Although both are funded by appropriations from Congress, they are considered law enforcement and are therefore essential. All law enforcement agencies will remain functional during the shutdown.
If you need help navigating the shutdown or would like more specific information on how the government shutdown will affect your immigration case, find a lawyer who can help you if you live near Fairfax, Loudon, and Arlington and Prince William counties.
link: Arlington Immigration Court
link: Immigration Cases