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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) relies on application fees for 97% of its $4.8-billion budget. Now, immigration has dropped substantially, and the agency is asking Congress for a $1.2 billion cash infusion and the right to add a 10% surcharge to those applications it does receive.

A spokesperson for the agency told Congress that application fees may drop off by more than 60%, all told, by the end of this fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. Without the new money, he said, the agency will be unable to continue its operations within months.

The big question seems to be why this has happened. The Trump administration argues that the drop in immigration applications is due to the pandemic, but critics disagree. They say Trump administration immigration policies such as extreme vetting of every applicant have dissuaded people from coming to the United States.

“With extreme vetting, they are making every single application take longer to review, and processing fewer,” one immigration advocate told the New York Times. “Word gets out that it’s not worth applying.”

What is the mission of the USCIS supposed to be?

Acting Deputy Secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli now heads the agency, and he has made clear that processing visas and citizenship applications is no longer the USCIS’s main mission. Instead, he sees the agency’s mission as enforcing immigration restrictions.

The administration has also been making changes that impact potential immigrants. For example, the agency has added new requirements for in-person interviews and added additional fraud detection resources to the ordinary processing of employment- and marriage-based green card applications, according to a Times review.

In addition, many visa applications are newly being sent back to the applicant with a request for additional evidence that they meet immigration criteria. And, when it comes to H-1B visa extensions, these are being handled as if every person were a first-time applicant, even though these are skilled workers who have already been vetted and are working in the U.S.

“This administration has made every single application much more expensive and time-consuming to adjudicate,” commented a man who worked on immigration policy for the Obama administration.

Unsure of how to get your immigration business completed?

In these uncertain times, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get visas, green cards and other immigration benefits in a timely fashion. There may not be much you can do to overcome the pandemic or a changing mission at the USCIS, but you can work to ensure your immigration petition gets accepted the first time.

Work with an experienced immigration attorney at Yew Immigration Law Group. We have years of experience helping people live and work in the U.S.