UPDATE - November 13, 2023: The new deadline for Congress to pass a long-term spending bill to keep the U.S. government funded is November 17, 2023. Please see below for more information about the potential impact on international students and scholars of a U.S. government shutdown.
UPDATE - September 30, 2023: The U.S. Congress this evening passed a continuing resolution to allow the government to remain funded for the next 45 days, avoiding a shutdown. We will continue to monitor developments for a long-term budget agreement to avoid a potential shutdown that could happen if no agreement is made 45 days from now (by November 17, 2023).
Potential impact on international students and scholars of a US government shutdown
If members of the U.S. Congress do not pass legislation to keep the U.S. government funded beyond September 30, 2023, certain government agencies will be affected. In the past, units within some agencies that were fee-funded or considered “essential” continued operations. Others closed when the government shut down.
If the government does shut down, depending on the length of the shutdown and volume of applications submitted, government agencies may have a backlog of work to process when they reopen.
Offices/activities likely to cease operations
- Visa appointments, interviews, visa issuance
During past governments shutdowns, the U.S. Department of State has reduced or halted some visa operations at U.S. Embassies/Consulates around the world. If a shutdown does occur, the visas of new international students and scholars could be delayed, requiring them to change anticipated travel/arrival plans. The ISO and ISchO recommend that existing student and scholars carefully consider any travel, if they require new visa stamps in order to reenter the U.S. They should monitor the status of visa operations at the U.S. Consulate in the country to which they plan to travel, and, if necessary, postpone their travel plans until visa operations fully resume. Note, consulates that remain open initially could close later if a shutdown is prolonged.
- J-1 waiver processing
If the Department of State’s Waiver Review Division pauses operations due to a shutdown, it would delay waiver processing for students and scholars subject to the two-year home residency requirement. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot approve change of status applications for foreign nationals subject to the two-year rule until/unless a waiver is granted.
- Processing of applications for Social Security numbers
During past shutdowns, the Social Security Administration ceased the processing of applications for Social Security numbers. New international students and scholars could not apply for Social Security numbers until the agency reopened.
- E-Verify employment eligibility verification
The E-Verify employment eligibility verification system is likely to cease operations. Interruption of E-Verify does not suspend the I-9 obligation on the part of employers. The rule requiring that E-Verify be cleared within three days would probably be suspended, as would the finite period during which foreign nationals would be required to resolve “tentative non-confirmations.” In the case of these interruptions, as long as MIT documents the employee’s eligibility to work, the Institute could allow employment, and complete the necessary I-9/E-Verify reporting later, once E-Verify operations resume.
- Labor Condition Application processing in support of H-1B and E-3 petitions
The H-1 and E-3 work visas require that a Labor Condition Application be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor before a petition can be submitted to USCIS. The processing of Labor Condition Applications would be impacted by a Department of Labor shutdown. Cases for which ISchO has not yet submitted or received approval of the Labor Condition Application could not be submitted to USCIS for adjudication.
- PERM Labor Certification in support of permanent residence petitions
PERM Labor Certification would be impacted by a U.S. Department of Labor shutdown. In the second preference category of permanent residence (sometimes used as the first step in the permanent residence process for junior faculty), labor certification must be approved before MIT can submit a permanent residence petition to USCIS. Cases for which ISchO has not yet submitted or received approval of labor certification would not be sent to USCIS for adjudication.
Offices/activities expected to remain open, but may be disrupted or delayed
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Because USCIS is fee-funded, the processing of applications is likely to continue, e.g. H-1, O-1, E-3, F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Extension, as well as changes and extensions of status and permanent residence petitions. In some cases, security checks by other government agencies are required before application processing can move forward. If these other government agencies are closed during a shutdown, application processing/approval may be delayed. USCIS could also be affected if a shutdown is so prolonged that fee revenues are exhausted.
Offices/activities expected to operate as usual, with limited to no impact
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP)
USCBP at airports and other ports of entry would continue operations, as its function is considered “essential.”
- Drivers’ license processing
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is a state (not federal) agency and should remain open for learners’ permit, drivers’ license and auto registration processing.
- From the MIT Office of the Vice President for Research: “Possible U.S. government shutdown: Information for the MIT research community”