Today is the start day for new H1B Visa FY 2014 holders in their new work visa status in US…Many of you, who have not arrived yet are planning to come to America very soon….at this juncture, if you are following some of the US news, you might have heard that US government is going to shut down. There might be many concerns for all the current H1B Visa holders in the US or the remaining holders, who plan to arrive in the US soon…. In this article, I will try to summarize what it means to H1B Visa holders, USCIS processing, Department of Labor processing, Consular processing, Visa stamping, etc.
Why is US Government Shutdown ?
Imagine you have a business, to run your business, you need to pay the bills like rent, electricity, internet, employee wages, etc. If you do NOT pay the bills, all your service providers will disconnect their services, you will have to move out, your internet won’t work, your employees will leave, etc. Similarly, imagine that “US government” is a business and for it to function, US Govt. have to pay bills for all the services. Senate approves the budget (money) to pay these bills that are incurred by the US Govt. If senate does not approve the budget, there is no cash, hence the services of the US Gov. will not function, because there is no money to pay for the services. Due to the Obama Healthcare law, there is a point of conflict in the overall budget plan between democrats and republicans and the budget plan for this fiscal year is not passed by the Senate (The US Govt, fiscal year starts from October 1st and ends by September 30th), and there is no money to pay for the bills incurred by the US Govt. Hence, the American govt. is shutdown.
What happens when the US Government shutdown happens ?
Essentially, the Government offices in US will not function. Only the essential and mandatory services offered by US Gov. will function. This will include things like border security, military, social security, health care, mail, etc.
How does the US Government shutdown impact Internationals on a Visa or planning for Visa ?
We will cover various aspects of the impact in separate section by topic below.
New H1B Visa Holders in USA : You will NOT be able to apply for a Social Security Number. It means that your employer may not be willing to start you work without SSN, even though technically you can start working. Also, if you have a new job and the client needs your SSN, you cannot give them the same for background verification. Read official statement on Social Security Admin website on services during Gov. Shutdown
H1B Holders in home country with Visa, planning to travel to USA : New H1B visa holders can arrive in the US. The port of entry is considered an essential service to protect the country, so you can enter America and CBP will function normally. Air traffic controllers will work, so will the airports. You are good to travel. Check the statement on : Official CBP website on Gov. Shutdown
H1B, F1, B1, B2, etc. Visa applicants, applying for Visa stamping at US Consulate : The US Consulate general or Consular offices globally in different countries will function normally. They will be using the reserve funds allocated to them. The US Department of state website says that many of the consular offices have funds reserved for at least one year and then some expire. Having said that, some of the services, where other departments need to collaborate will not be fully available. It may impact some of the administrative processing cases, depending on the type of issue. Read the official State Dept. statement on US Gov Shutdown
H1B Transfers, Extensions, Green Card ( PERM) Applications tied with US Dept of Labor : All the services offered by US Department of Labor will not be available during the US Govt Shutdown. It means that you cannot apply for Labor Condition Applications ( LCA), that are required for H1B Visa transfers or extensions. The PERM or Green Card applications will not be processed during this period. Also, the audits typically conducted by Dept. of labor will not be carried. It impacts a lot of the H1B Visa holders and Green card applicants. Read full information on US Dept of Labor Shutdown Page
USCIS services for H1B petitioners, L1 visa petitioners, COS, F1 Visa OPT, etc. : USCIS will function normally for the most part, except when dependent on other departments, as they provide services based on the fees collected from applicants and it is part of the essential services. USCIS will process all the H1B Visa applications, L1 Visa applications, Change of Status ( COS) requests, etc. The big catch is that, wherever there is a dependency on other Gov. Agencies like Dept. of Labor or similar agencies, there will be impact on the processing times due to the dependency. All the US citizen naturalization ceremonies will function normally. The E-Verify portal will NOT work, it could impact F1 Students, who plan to work on OPT, because New employers cannot get e-Verified during this shutdown and most of the employer services will not be available. Read E-Verify Official Shutdown info
H1B Visa, L1 visa Job holders working in US private Companies: The US Govt Shutdown does not impact any H1B Visa or L1 Visa holders, who are currently working for US private companies. You should be able to work normally without any issues and get paid normally.
Summary – Plan Accordingly for US Govt Shutdown :
The US Gov. Shutdown does not happen every year, it has happened after 17 years. It is a rare unfortunate situation where there is a stalemate in the political opinion impacting us. It may or may not last long…The previous shutdown was for about 21 days…Just be cognizant of the fact that as Internationals it impacts you in a variety of ways and you do not want to be in trouble arriving in a foreign country with these complications. Just plan yourself, it will be fine.
What are your thoughts on the US Government shutdown ?
How does it impact you ?
Good News articles :
- CNN : 20 Questions on US Gov. Shutdown
- VOA News : US Gov. Shutdown Questions and Answers
- The Guardian : Services offered in US Gov. Shutdown
- NPR : US Gov. Shutdown impacts to Common Man