The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is primarily funded by immigration fees. When costs rise but fees do not, the agency experiences shortfalls. The same thing happens when there is a sudden drop in fees collected.
Both of those appear to be happening to the agency, which is responsible for providing visas, green cards and citizenship. The coronavirus and the associated travel restrictions have reduced incoming fees. So has a moratorium on certain types of visas. Meanwhile, critics allege that the USCIS has increased its own costs by requiring “extreme vetting” for every U.S. visitor and adding other hurdles to immigration.
In May, the USCIS’s parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, announced that it needed $1.2 billion in additional funding or it would have to furlough (lay off) the majority of its workforce. The date of the expected furlough was to be August 30. However, the agency recently announced that the furlough is now on temporarily hold.
“Averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs,” said a spokesperson for the USCIS.
Due to the coronavirus, the agency has already suspended many in-person services. That includes all interviews, a crucial step in most types of immigration, and also naturalization ceremonies. This has further contributed to the drop in revenue.
House takes action, Senate waits
The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed legislation that would fund the USCIS temporarily. However, in order for that legislation to become law, the U.S. Senate must also pass it and the president must sign it.
Unfortunately, the bill most likely to fund the USCIS is the upcoming coronavirus relief bill. That is currently stalled in the Senate.
It is unclear when the USCIS will begin performing interviews and other in-person services again.
If you are trying to handle an immigration matter right now, you may be facing substantial delays. Contact Yew Immigration Law Group for assistance. Our experienced immigration lawyers can help ensure that your petition gets submitted correctly and with all the required information. Getting your petition right the first time is currently the best way to avoid delays.