Note: As predicted as a possible option in the earlier version of this article, USCIS furloughs were delayed. “USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020,” wrote USCIS in a statement on August 25, 2020. “Aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations, including naturalizations, and will drastically impact agency contracts.” Stay tuned to this page for more updates.

On August 30, 2020, USCIS plans to furlough two-thirds of its workforce, citing Congress’ failure to reach a deal on the new stimulus package, according to a report from USA Today. The USCIS furloughs will affect 13,400 employees and are expected to last until October 1, 2020.

How Will the USCIS Furloughs Affect You

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates USCIS processes an average of 657,000 immigration cases a month with a full workforce. MPI believes 75,000 immigration applications will not be processed for every month the furloughs continue. This will add to USCIS’s existing backlog, which stood at 5.7 million at the end of March. You can expect extensive delays.

There isn’t an immigration application that will escape the effects of the USCIS furloughs, including citizenship, family-based green cards, employment-based visas, student visas, DACA, and asylum cases. All industries across the United States will feel its effects.

3 Important Points to Note

While this news may be disheartening, there are a few crucial points to keep in mind.

1. File Your Application Now

If you’ve been thinking about filing any type of immigration or citizenship application or petitioning someone for a green card, now may be the time to file. You won’t escape the delay caused by the furloughs, but at least you can get the processing started.

2. USCIS Can Delay Furloughs Again

USCIS originally planned to starts furloughs on August 3, but after getting new revenue information, the agency decided to delay. Further revenue information for the past month might lead to another delay.

3. Congress Can Still Act

Although not likely at this point, Congress can still act either through voting on a stimulus package that will help fund USCIS or through lobbying. On August 18, Senator Patrick Leahy sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS asking them to delay the furloughs. Leahy noted the fact the USCIS currently has enough money to last through the fiscal year as a reason the currently planned furloughs are unnecessary.

USCIS Furloughs Sen. Patrick Leahy's letter
Sen. Patrick Leahy’s letter to the Department of Homeland Security and USCIS asking for furloughs to be delayed.

The Reason Behind the USCIS Furloughs

USCIS is mostly funded by the fees you pay for filing certain forms. USCIS first noted a potential budget fall in November 2019. At that time, USCIS planned to raise fees to deal with the budget gap. However, the pandemic and bans on certain visas exacerbated the agency’s budget issues. In May 2020, the agency notified Congress that the projected shortfall grew massively.

USCIS is asking for $1.2 billion to deal with the shortfall, and they plan to repay the funds by adding a 10% surcharge to applications.

It’s important to note that USCIS technically has enough money to last through the fiscal year, but they worry they don’t have enough for the calendar year. When the new fiscal year starts, a lot of bills will come due, contractors will need to be paid, and USCIS needs to do payroll. The furloughs should ideally help USCIS deal with those incoming bills.

How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help

The pandemic has created an air of uncertainty around all aspects of life including immigration. With changing immigration laws and budgets, it is vital to have an experienced immigration attorney that can help you navigate immigration and citizenship processes.

Our highly experienced immigration attorneys are well versed in both employment-based and family-based immigration and are always up to date on the latest immigration changes. With our expertise in the field, we will help you avoid the common immigration pitfalls. To schedule a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers today, you can simply fill out this contact form.