Immigration Alert: Sequestration Likely to Cause Delays for Travelers, Employers and Immigrants
Unless a compromise is reached between the House and Senate, sequestration will mean across-the-board cuts to federal agencies totaling up to $1.2 trillion over a period of ten years. The Obama Administration and officials testifying before Congress expect the cuts to have a profound effect on the overall functions of government agencies regulating travel to the U.S. and agencies upon which foreign nationals rely heavily to secure their immigration benefits. We have highlighted some of the key areas that may be impacted by sequestration, as reported by the White House and key agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—Longer Lines at the Airport:
According to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, cutbacks in funding and reduced staffing for CBP and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will dramatically increase wait times by up to several hours at airports. Fewer officers on duty will result in slower passenger screening and longer lines for immigration inspection for those traveling into the U.S., particularly at peak periods of travel and at the busiest airports. Air travelers should plan ahead for longer wait times.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) – Increased Processing Times:
Loss in funding is generally considered to be less significant at USCIS since the agency’s budget comes mainly from filing fees collected from applicants. Nonetheless, the magnitude of cuts to other related immigration agencies, such as CBP and Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), may have a spill-over effect on USCIS operations, and, as a result, processing times may slow.
- Department of State (DOS) – Delays in Visa Adjudications:
Cuts within the DOS budget would affect all U.S. Embassies and Consulates. DOS Secretary John Kerry predicts such cuts will significantly increase visa processing times and jeopardize the agency’s ability to issue error-free travel documents, as resources are shifted to focus on critical national security programs. With reduced DOS staffing, travelers will need to plan further ahead, as it will be more difficult to secure consular visa appointments and will take embassies longer to issue visas.
- Department of Labor (DOL) – Slower LCA and PERM processing:
Acting Secretary Seth Harris has stated that major budget cuts to the DOL and a sizeable decrease in DOL staffing will affect various programs within the DOL, including the Employment and Training Administration that contains the Office of Foreign Labor Certification. As a result, backlogs and an increase in processing times should be expected for Labor Condition Applications related to H-1B petitions and Labor Certification (PERM) applications filed by employers.
The White House and Secretaries Kerry and Napolitano maintain that reductions from sequestration could undermine progress made by federal and state agencies across many programs in recent years, including immigration programs, and place government agencies in a position of vulnerability unless an agreement is reached.
For more information regarding the White House Office of Management and Budget report, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/stareport.pdf
For more information regarding the testimonies of Secretaries Napolitano, Kerry and Harris, please visit:
This article is provided as general information for clients and friends of Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP. It does not constitute, and should not be construed as, legal advice. The contents of this article may be considered attorney advertising in some states.
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