Sequestration May Affect USCIS and Department of Labor Processing Times
(Vol. XXIII, no. 04, March 14, 2013, Issue No. 1)
The “sequester” or “sequestration” refers to budget cuts to particular categories of federal spending that took effect March 1, 2013. The cuts were established by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The area of federal spending most affected by sequestration is called discretionary spending, which includes defense and non-defense elements. Discretionary spending represented approximately 36% of federal outlays in 2012. The Washington Post article explained the possible effects sequestration may have on immigration system.
How USCIS Processing may be affected by Sequestration
Last month, the Under Secretary of Management of The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo regarding sequestration. Because of sequestration, the DHS budget will be decreased and agencies within the DHS will be impacted. Agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will be hardest hit. Therefore there will be fewer agents, airport screeners and border agents on duty, and these staffing decreases will likely affect processing times for immigration applications. While USCIS will lose some funding, most of its budget is derived from the fees it receives from processing various types of applications and services, so USCIS might not be impacted as greatly as ICE or CBP. However, a large scale cuts for other related agencies will likely affect USCIS operations to some degree.
How the Department of Labor may be affected by Sequestration
Typically, employers submitting LCAs to the Department of Labor (DOL) can expect a response within seven working days, unless there are obvious inaccuracies. However, there could be a potential delay in LCA processing (a pre-requisite for H-1B petitions), Prevailing Wage Determinations, and PERM Processing timelines due to decreased staff at the Office of Foreign Labor Certification at DOL. Recently there was technical glitch on the iCERT online Portal System and the issue has been left unresolved for two days. This delay might be due to the seriousness of the technical glitch, but it may also be a result of the staff shortage.
We expect that the actual effects of sequestration may be less severe that it has been previously discussed publicly. However, it is important to keep in mind that there could be possible delays in all immigration processing due to sequestration.