U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released plans to furlough over 13,000 employees, representing roughly 70% of its workforce, unless U.S. Congress provides a $1.2 billion cash infusion before August 3. According to USCIS, the budget shortfall is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees beginning in March. Others argue that the funding shortfall is largely the result of a USCIS hiring surge to detect fraud and vet applications, as well as a general decline in the number of applications being filed with USCIS. These changes put USCIS in a vulnerable position when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Trump administration’s recent temporary suspension on certain immigrant and nonimmigrant visa categories with high fees, such as the H-1B visa, will compound the budget shortfall.
If Congress grants funding, USCIS proposes to repay the emergency funding by adding a 10% surcharge to all applications. If the furlough is implemented in August, USCIS operations will be disrupted and there will be a significant slowdown in processing times for all immigration cases with USCIS.
We are closely monitoring this situation for developments and further updates.