USCIS runs out of money:
Furloughs 13,400 employees Stops printing green cards
“How will your case be affected when USCIS runs out of money?”
The pandemic has not only affected you personally, but has also affected
larger institutions, even government agencies like United States Customs and Immigration Service, USCIS.
Because of economic and quarantine restrictions, Applicants for green cards, and fiancé and spouse visas have, like the rest of us, put their lives on hold. This includes delaying submitting applications to USCIS for immigration benefits.
USCIS currently is only receiving about 40% of its normal caseload of new applications.
This is good news and bad news.
It is good news for you if you have applied already because your case is being processed faster because there are less cases to compete with for the attention of the USCIS officers.
But it is bad news for USCIS
Since USCIS pays for its operations with application fees, after four months of the pandemic, after four months of reduced “sale”, USCIS is OUT of money.
13,400 employees, about 70% of it’s entire workforce have received furlough notices. By the first week in August there may only remain at USCIS a skeleton crew to handle your immigration case.
In The Visacoach newsletter, I reported months ago that USCIS was processing cases very quickly.
This was due to their office’s receiving far fewer applications than normal. While other businesses closed during the pandemic,
USCIS did not. Yes, they were not allowing in-person meetings or interviews with the public, but their back offices continued to
work uninterrupted. Basically they had plenty of staff but with less work to do. That’s why recent cases enjoyed faster processing.
And if you had all of your evidence ready for your case that was good news for you, and a great opportunity to submit your application and enjoy speedier processing.
But the party is over
USCIS is broke, they are running out of money.
USCIS operates as a self supporting fee based agency. This means they do not receive tax payer dollars to support their operations. Instead they support themselves entirely by the fees you pay when you file your application.
Their current application fee revenue is only 40% of its normal level. At the same time, their staffing is at 100%. Having “done the math”, USCIS expects to run out of money by August.
They have asked Congress to bail them out. They want to raise fees, charge surcharges on top of the new raised fees, and want 1.2 billion dollars in loans..
USCIS has asked Congress to approve higher across the board fees (including a huge $445 increase to apply for US Citizenship, also $545 for work authorization and $585 for travel authorization).
USCIS has ALSO asked to add a temporary 10% surcharge on top of any application fees charged.
And finally USCIS has asked Congress for a $1.2 BILLION dollar loan to tide them over. The temporary 10% surcharge would probably be applied until the money is paid back.
In the mean time, USCIS has sent notices to 13,400 employees notifying them to expect to be furloughed in August. If the loan falls through the employees stay home.
And green card and work and travel authorization applicants have already suffered.
USCIS previously contracted out the printing of green cards and work and travel authorization cards. The contract with the outside printing company ended in June. USCIS chose to not renew the contract as they hoped to save money by doing the printing themselves inhouse.
But, due to lack of funding, they have not hired new any staff who knows how to run the printing presses. So until their budget problems are fixed, no more green cards, no more work authorization cards.
So far 50,000 approved green cards, and 75,000 approved work and travel authorization cards Have not been printed, not issued to the applicants.
This is a real problem because a lot of new immigrants Need to work to support themselves and family, and they may not even look for work until they have these cards in their hands.
The fate of your application, and many thousands more like yours, and the fate of USCIS all lies in what Congress does.
If Congress DOES grant the loan, and does so soon, USCIS can keep its employees working, and can find a way to start printing green cards.
And if that happens, and they are still getting less new cases, then for your case, if you can submit it soon,
You can expect to enjoy faster processing, at least until the pandemic is under control, and new applications return to prior levels.
If Congress does NOT grant the loan, then expect all cases to slow to a miserable crawl.
In either case, you will pay higher fees.
No matter what happens, submitting as soon as possible, is still your best course. Depending on how soon you submit, you will most likely avoid the fee increases. And any progress you make before any reductions in staffing (if they occur) will put your case that much further along the processing path.
As always with US immigration it is “first come, first serve”.
This was Fred Wahl, The VisaCoach