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Effects of the Government Shutdown On Green Card Processing Times

Updated: May 30, 2020




Apr 23 2019 12:00 AM CST

By: Charde Brown


There has been a surge in discussions about immigration in the cooling-off period following the government shutdown. During his candidacy, President Trump ran on an immigration platform that promised border walls and the like.


Since President Trump took office, there have been some not so subtle increases in the time it takes to process immigrant visas. Processing times have changed drastically for immigrant visas and legal permanent resident authorizations. According to the United States Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, the processing times have nearly tripled since President Trump took office.


Jordaine, who didn't want to give out her last name, filed to have her conditions removed from her green card in December of 2016 and didn't receive a new card until January 2019. Applicants receive a receipt after filing the application, which works as a temporary document and is valid for12 months that should allow them the same rights as a hard copy green card.


Jordaine had to apply for an extension of her temporary green card twice, which she received without issue. However, the temporary green cards were not beneficial to her in most cases.


"I was scared to travel," Jordaine said


After arriving at orientation for a new job at FED EX with her temporary documents, they told her she couldn't work without papers and that she "had to be dealt with like other immigrants" by the human resources manager. The orientation was for a job that would provide supplemental income. She was already legally employed and only looking to make some extra money.


She experienced a similar situation while looking for housing as well. She says a management company tried to charge her more than the standard rent because she was illegal even though she presented the documents.


"The extension notice that they send is not secure. Many companies have no idea what it is. I faced a lot of discrimination." Jordaine said


While waiting for their new authorizations to be in the country, applicants are in an in-between status where they are not technically here illegally and not technically authorized to be in this country. Allowing the government to take their money and also legally deport them.


In the case of famous rapper 21 Savage, who applied for an adjustment of status in 2015 and was arrested a few weeks ago for overstaying, the processing times were not on his side. Up until his arrest, he had not received an approval or denial for the green card application filed in 2015.


In what will be one of the most significant decisions made during the Trump presidency, the processing times for first-time green card applications and green card renewals were delayed further. The longest partial government shutdown in America's history caused delays to several government agencies, a few of which are integral in the green card decision process.


Processing times for green card renewals were 23 to 45 months across all offices on and around the 30th day of the government shut down. Current processing times for the same applications are down to 23 to 41 months as all offices are back up and operating.


For the 2015 Fiscal year, processing times for first-time applicant green cards were between six and 14 months, renewal application processing times were between seven and eight months.

Pre-shutdown processing times were 16 to 18 months, according to the USCIS website. The government shut down had a tremendous impact on processing times looking at these numbers, but USCIS says there weren't impacted by it at all.


USCIS public information officer Genevieve Billia said their processing times were not affected.

"During the government shutdown operations continued as usual at USCIS since we operate on the funds we charge and not budget appropriations. There has been no slow down or delay in processing…"


Of the dozens of agencies and nine federal offices affected by the shutdown, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) play the most significant role in green card decisions.


DHS determines the admissibility of candidates searches for criminal records in the US and abroad and randomly check to see if they live at the residence on their application. Additionally, tax returns have to be submitted with the initial application (if they've already been working) to show they can financially care for themselves.


When applying to have the conditions removed, they must also submit tax paperwork to show they haven't been a financial burden on their US spouse. Even though fees fund USCIS operations, the government agencies necessary to complete processing being shutdown certainly caused a delay.


Many of the applicants wanting to have conditions removed from their green cards are spouses of US citizens. The delay in processing and unfamiliarity with the temporary green card document creates an inability to move about life in many ways. Even with the temporary green card changing jobs or finding housing and traveling could be difficult.

The fear of not being let back in the country prevents many people from seeing their families until the non-conditional green card arrives.


Dadrian Johnson will be filing his paperwork to have the conditions removed from his green card next month even with the current processing times as they are, he said,

"…I don't feel comfortable leaving while my paperwork is pending. It's best to have all paperwork clear when going traveling, never know what next can happen."

Daily things heavily rely on proper documentation for immigrants. Applying for jobs, relocating, or even visiting family for multiple years could be out of the question or incredibly challenging to carry out.

The government shutdown took an already backlogged system and backlogged it further. This is an unfavorable situation for people who have spent their hard-earned money saved and sacrificed to afford the luxury to live in the same country with their spouse in many cases.





Ramification of an expired green card: https://citizenpath.com/expired-green-card-problems/

Green card renewal process: https://my.uscis.gov/exploremyoptions/remove_conditional_status

https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/after-green-card-granted/conditional-permanent-residence/remove-conditions-permanent-residence-based-marriage

Historical Processing times: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/historic-pt

Supporting article: https://thinkprogress.org/how-the-government-shutdown-is-making-the-u-s-immigration-system-even-worse-282959d55b52/



Song lyrics made 21 Savage a Target



April 23 2019 12:00 AM CST


By: Charde Brown


She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph was arrested and held in a Georgia detention center for nine days missing a performance he had scheduled at the Grammy’s. Better known as 21 Savage, the rapper applied for a legal permanent resident status or a green card in 2017 and up until his arrest on February 3, 2019 hadn’t received an approval or denial.


His newest single ‘A Lot’ includes a line that says, "I couldn't imagine my kids stuck at the border." The song was released December 21, 2018. In an interview with Good Morning America, a member of 21 Savage’s legal team said that they felt he was targeted due to the song lyrics.


The visa 21 Savage used to enter the united states was expired in 2006 13 years before he was arrested, even though the green card application filed in 2017 let United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office know he was out of status and for how long.


Savage was released on $100,000 bond, said that he wants to bring awareness to the struggles of the people who don’t have the option of bonding out.

“I feel your pain, and I’m a do everything in my power to bring awareness to your pain.”


Author Bio

Charde Brown is a California native and recent graduate of the University of North Texas. She has experience in various types of media and a genuine interest in Immigration processes, issues and reform. When she is not creating different forms of media she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and reading fiction novels.

Charde can be reached via

twitter @Chardebbrown

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