Last evening, President Trump delivered his State of the Union Address, which touched on many aspects of immigration.  The President’s plan consists of four pillars, summarized below:

1.)  Path to Citizenship for 1.8 million “illegal” immigrants (often referred to as Dreamers) who were brought here by their parents at a young age.  President Trump claimed that this number covers almost three times more people than the previous administration (under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)). Under the Trump plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States.    President Trump did not indicate any specific details how this plan would be enacted but he has made past comments that the path to citizenship would take over a decade.

2)  Building of the border wall with Mexico, hiring more federal agents and ending “catch and release” which the President called dangerous.   President Trump’s plan to end “catch and release” would require much more bed space to hold detained immigrants and doesn’t acknowledge the fact that those who are released are non-violent individuals with terms of release, much like the criminal probation/bond system.

3)  Ending the visa lottery.  President Trump claimed that the program randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of our people. He indicated that a merit-based immigration system should be adopted.  President Trump indicated that this merit based system would admit people who are skilled, who want to work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.  President Trump’s language suggests that those who enter on visa lottery do not meet these characteristics, which is contrary to the program’s purpose of creating diversity.

4) Ending what the President calls “chain migration”. President Trump claimed that a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. His plan would limit sponsorships to spouses and minor children.  This term which many people consider derogatory would end U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents being able to re-unite with family members and would do away with sponsorships for parents of U.S. Citizens, siblings of U.S. Citizens, among others.  President Trump also does not indicate the long wait times associated with visa availability which often make it difficult to sponsor family members.

Should a person have questions regarding how the pillars may impact their case or sponsorships for family members, now would be the time to contact an immigration lawyer to discuss the person’s eligibility to file the appropriate applications.




Congressional negotiations on a federal spending bill remain very active. To avoid a federal government shutdown, a decision or a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government at current levels must be reached by Friday, January 19, 2017. Until a deal is made or a CR is passed, the threat of a shutdown remains a possibility. Generally, if the government shuts for budgetary reasons, all but “essential” personnel are furloughed and are not allowed to work.

Such a shutdown will impact immigration services across a number of different government agencies, affecting many of the systems and processes employers rely on to facilitate employment, including E-Verify, visa petition processing, labor certifications and other government services that corporations and individuals rely upon.

We will closely monitor the circumstances and provide updates as they become available. Individuals with pending applications or who are planning to travel abroad to secure a visa should consult with their Fox Rothschild immigration attorney, prior to travel.


E-Verify, the Internet-based system that allows employers to determine the eligibility of prospective employees to work in the United States, would be unavailable during a shutdown. Although employers must still complete the Form I-9 on a timely basis, in the past, U.S. Department of Homeland Security has suspended E-Verify’s 3-day rule and extended the time for responding to Tentative Non-Confirmations. Federal contractors are recommended to contact their contracting officers to confirm time frames.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

As a fee-based agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process applications and petitions for immigration benefits during the shutdown; however, processing delays are likely, as a certain portion of the staff will be furloughed. Further, delays may occur if adjudication of a petition/application is dependent on support from nonessential government functions that are suspended during the shutdown—for example, if a petition requires a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DOL).

In the past, USCIS has relaxed its rules and accepted H-1B filings without certified LCAs when DOL operations have been suspended or delayed, however, USCIS has not yet announced whether it will do so during the current shutdown.

Department of Labor

The Department of Labor (DOL) will suspend all immigration-related functions during a shutdown, affecting PERM Labor Certifications and Labor Condition Applications. Filed and pending applications will not be processed, nor will filings be accepted during a shutdown.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP’s) employees are expected to stay on the job at the borders and ports of entry. CBP is deemed an essential function and will likely continue operations at near normal capacity, including the adjudication of applications/petitions for TN and L-1 status that are normally processed at the border.

The Department of State

In the past, The Department of State’s (DOS’s) consular operations have remained operational, although services may be limited. It is expected that U.S. Consulates abroad will continue to process visa applications as long as funds are available. This funding is expected to last only for a few days, at which point the State Department will likely cease processing visas and focus solely on diplomatic services and emergency services for American citizens.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs/Passport Office U.S. Passports

The Bureau of Consular Affairs is a fee-based agency; therefore, the Passport Office should continue to operate normally during a shutdown. However, some those passport offices that are located in federal buildings, which themselves may have to shut down, restricting access to those passport offices.

Social Security Administration

While The Social Security Administration (SSA) is expected to remain open during a shutdown, it will not accept or processing Social Security Number (SSN) applications. Although an employee may begin work without a social security number, the lack of an SSN could affect the individual’s ability to secure a U.S. driver’s license, open a bank account, secure credit or obtain other benefits.

State Department of Motor Vehicle Agencies

Although driver’s license and state identification cards are issued by state governments, applications by foreign nationals could be delayed during the shutdown because local agencies must access a federal database to verify the foreign national’s immigration status before it may issue a driver’s license or identification card. This database, known as SAVE, could be suspended during a shutdown.


Alka Bahal is a Partner and the Co-Chair of the Corporate Immigration Practice of Fox Rothschild LLP. Alka is situated in Fox Rothschild’s Morristown, New Jersey office though she practices throughout the United States and at Consulates worldwide. You can reach Alka at (973) 994-7800, or