WASHINGTON (AP) — The partial government shutdown has left high-skilled immigrant workers and the companies that employ them in limbo.
The Labor Department's Office of Foreign Labor Certification is closed and applications for job changes, new hires or any other adjustments for foreign workers are on hold until the government reopens.
Laura Foote Reiff, a Northern Virginia immigration attorney, said while the Labor Department remains closed any business in the process of hiring foreign workers who already have a valid visa may also be missing various filing deadlines, which could force companies to start the complicated hiring process over again.
"It can be costly and time consuming," Reiff said.
The Labor Department said Friday that it could not answer questions about the issue because the shutdown had closed the Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
Reiff said government contractors whose projects are on hold during the shutdown face a dilemma: to furlough or fire foreign workers.
Because of the conditions on the high-skilled visas, even furloughed foreign workers have to be paid. If a company decides to fire the worker, that firm is then faced with starting the arduous hiring process over again.
And for the foreign worker, taking a temporary unpaid furlough or losing the job altogether means they are violating the terms of the visa, which could cause problems in the future if they try to renew a visa or change immigration status. There is no grace period for immigrant workers to be unemployed and they could face deportation or be denied visa extensions.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the immigration paperwork for such workers, said it will evaluate future renewal and status change applications of workers furloughed or fired on a case-by-case basis.