Update: August 25, 2020
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Tuesday announced it would abandon plans to furlough more than 13,000 employees next week, temporarily averting a scenario that would have crippled the processing of applications for green cards, work permits, U.S. citizenship and other immigration benefits.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is sending furlough notices to about 69% of its staff and preparing to suspend services in August because Congress and the Trump administration cannot agree on a rescue package of $1.2 billion for the agency.
USCIS said it plans to furlough about 13,400 employees in August for at least a month if conversation with Congress and the White House don’t reach any productive conclusion.
Why is USCIS struggling?
Since its inception in 2003, USCIS has almost entirely depended (self-funded) on the fees it collects on visa, green-card and citizenship applications. The lower number of applications, therefore, means a direct impact on the revenue that USCIS needs to support itself. According to USCIS figures, it processed 11% less applications (7.65 million) in the last fiscal year (October 2018 through September 2019) than in the two prior years. This year USCIS has seen a 50% drop in new applications since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, other process changes such as mandating in-person interviews for a larger pool of applicants and requiring the visa renewals to be scrutinized as new applications have contributed to longer times and additional costs for the agency.
Also, the numerous bans and restrictions enacted by the Trump administration might have also added to the drop in number of applications. The latest proclamation that temporarily bans issuance of work visas by the embassies would further cut into the revenue for the agency.
Who might get affected?
If the agency were to wind down its operations, then the following service are likely to be affected –
· Processing of work-based visas (H-1B & L-1) – new, transfer, renewals
· Processing of Green-Card applications
· Processing asylum cases
· Renewals for DACA recipients
· Citizenship-oath ceremonies
USCIS has also proposed a 10% additional surcharge to future applications until it pays back the rescue package money.
Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a WayLit-affiliated attorney or another qualified professional.