Everyone has been feeling the pinch of the pandemic, which has had devastating economic impacts. Numerous small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, and many are finding it difficult to meet the monthly rent. USCIS is no different, and as an organization they are finding it difficult to stay financially secure. In May, USCIS notified Congress of a massive projected budget shortfall that unless mitigated, could lead to thousands of employees being furloughed until October. This shortfall has severe consequences not just for USCIS but for immigrants as well.
USCIS is mainly funded by fees paid by applicants and petitioners, however, due to the pandemic that source of revenue has dropped by 50%, which is expected to continue to decline unless the pandemic resolves. This means that USCIS will have difficulty paying its employees, and it is projected that over 13,000 staff members will have to be ed. Meaning, they will be forced to temporarily leave the organization. USCIS has requested Congress of an emergency funding of $1.2 billion, however, there has been no clear indications of Congress granting such a request. If the current situation does not change, by August 3, the beforementioned 13,000 staff members will be furloughed. USCIS offered to increase 10 percent application fees to pay back the bailout.
What does this mean for your case? The reality is that there are twenty thousand employees under USCIS, and by August 3 two-thirds of those employees will be furloughed. This means that every aspect of the USCIS process will take longer. The case processing delays have already taken place as USCIS has not scheduled biometrics and interview appointments since March 2020.
In addition, it has been widely reported that thousands of green cards and employment authorization documents are not being printed by USCIS even though the recipients have already been approved for them. It is speculated that this is due to the financial crisis mentioned above, with massive scaling down of operations occurring. Lawful permanent residents are required to carry their green cards. If they fail to carry green cards, they may be charged with a misdemeanor in violation of immigration law. Meanwhile, adjustment of status applicants with pending green cards need valid employment authorization documents (aka work permits) for valid immigration identification and legal employment. The delays have already negatively affected many lawful permanent residents and pending green card applicants.
If USCIS fails to address the grave budget shortfall, the situation would get worse. USCIS Ombudsman’s Office announced that the furloughs will mean that while the office will continue to take in cases, they will be severely delayed. That will negatively impact all sorts of cases. Those in the process of getting naturalized might not be able to register to vote in time for this year’s election, DACA recipients might not be able to renew, asylum applicants will have to wait longer, and businesses may not be able to hire workers. All around it is not a positive outlook for the future. Groups like the American Immigration Lawyers Association are working on getting USCIS funded, but time is running out for a bailout.