On Tuesday, August 25th, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will cancel the administrative furlough that was scheduled to begin on August 30, 2020. However, the USCIS also announced in the same press release that “spending reduction measures” would impact “all agency operations” and that “averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board.”
The USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of fiscal year 2020 (FY2020), which ends on September 30, 2020. It is hoped that Congress will pass a bill providing emergency funding before this date to ensure that the USCIS remains operational, and further processing backlogs are averted.
The USCIS is funded entirely by application and petition fees. The sole reason for the USCIS’ current financial crisis, which triggered the planned furloughs, is the decreased demand for immigration services. It is unclear how averting the furlough would result in increased processing backlogs. Keeping USCIS officers employed with less work to do would seem to mitigate the backlogs, rather than increase them.
Additionally, the USCIS’ original request for $1.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress was reportedly based on erroneous figures on anticipated immigration case volume through the COVID-19 national emergency. Although the volume of immigration filings may have decreased overall, to date the USCIS has received more case receipts through the pandemic than they previously predicted, allowing the USCIS to postpone the original furlough date from early July to August. Senator Leahy, in a July 21 letter addressed to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, pointed to the USCIS’ updated financial projections indicating that it would be ending the fiscal year with a surplus, in stark contrast to the revenue forecast provided to Congress earlier this year that indicated a $571 million deficit for FY2020.
Hopefully, the USCIS will continue to explore cost-cutting efficiency measures, such as waiving in-person green card interview requirements. We will keep our clients updated on any impact on case processing.