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What Do the USCIS Furloughs Mean For Green Card and Citizenship Applications?

Aug 25, 2020

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS Building)

IMPORTANT UPDATE —August 25, 2020: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency would avert its plans to furlough about 13,400 employees come Aug. 30 and that it would continue operating through the end of fiscal year 2020. USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement that aggressive spending cuts will “increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs,” adding that congressional funding will be necessary to keep the agency afloat in 2021.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to furlough 13,400 of its nearly 20,000 employees unless Congress approves a $1.2 billion bailout by Aug. 3, a move that could cause further delays in green card and U.S. citizenship application processing.

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How long will the furloughs last?

It is still unclear whether or not Congress will approve the bailout. A decision is expected around the end of July, possibly as part of the next coronavirus relief package.

If Congress doesn’t approve the bailout, the furlough could last for three months or longer, according to one report. If Congress does approve it, but not for the full amount, then furloughs will probably still go into effect, but likely for a shorter period.

Why is USCIS in financial trouble?

USCIS derives almost all of its revenue from immigration fees, but the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis has led to a 50 percent drop in revenue since USCIS closed its offices in March, an agency spokesperson said in a statement.

But immigration policy experts say the agency’s financial woes began long before the pandemic.

“The agency has made several questionable policy decisions over the past three and a half years, including failing to implement a timely and moderate fee increase, as well as initiating a surge of red tape and staff hiring that likely led USCIS from surplus to insolvency,” wrote Doug Rand, co-founder of Boundless, and Lindsay Milliken in an analysis published in the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy.

How does this affect my application?

As of now, experts say it’s too soon to know what the impacts of the furloughs will be on green card and U.S. citizenship applications.

But it’s likely they will slow down the processing of applications and “will for sure cause noticeable delays immediately,” a USCIS employee told Reuters. “There are already so many backlogs to work through.”

Boundless is constantly monitoring changes to the U.S. immigration system to help keep you informed. Stay up to date by following Boundless on Twitter or Facebook, so you can be alerted as soon as more official details come to light.

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