US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency responsible for visa and asylum processing, is expected to furlough part of its workforce this summer if Congress doesn’t provide emergency funding to sustain operations during the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, the agency, which has 19,000 government employees and contractors working at more than 200 offices, requested $1.2 billion from Congress due to its budget shortfall. Since then, the agency, a component of the Department of Homeland Security, has been working with members of Congress and their staffs to educate Capitol Hill on the agency’s finances and operations.
The immigration agency is primarily fee-funded and typically continues most operations during lapses in funding, such as last year’s government shutdown. However, during the pandemic, the agency suspended its in-person services, including all interviews and naturalization ceremonies. In the month of March and more recently, there has been a substantial decrease in applications due to the Trump administration’s restrictive policies on immigration. For instance, President Trump already issued a ban on green cards after the Department of State already issued its directive due to Covid-19 to halt face to face green card interviews at both US consulates abroad and local USCIS offices.
With the ban in place for sixty days from April, the USCIS has been impacted with lower applications, and further due to the Covid-19, applications are further diminished specifically related to L-1A transfer petitions (multinational manager applications) not to mention work visas where consular interviews are required.
In order to address the shortfall in fees to run the USCIS, the agency proposes a 10% surcharge on USCIS application fees to reimburse taxpayers at a later time. The furlough announcement comes as the agency is preparing to resume in-office operations and open its offices to the public.