NATIONWIDE — The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency will send more than 13,400 employees furlough notices by or before July 2. But the agency says it will halt furloughs if Congress approves a $1.2 billion dollar funding request.
Here’s what you should know about USCIS and its potential furloughs:
1. What does the USCIS do?
USCIS is in charge of asylum, visa, green card, DACA, and citizenship processing.
2. What has impacted revenue?
USCIS officials say the coronavirus pandemic impacted its revenue stream. The agency relies on receipt and application fees, which dropped by 50% in March.
In fiscal 2018, the agency reported a drop by more than 1 million fewer applications compared to 2017, which led to a $152 million drop in revenues from fees.
Before the pandemic, the agency reported an estimated 1.26 billion shortfall if it maintained current fee levels.
3. What role has the vetting process played?
Camilo Pachon Silva, an immigration lawyer, said a stricter vetting process and constant rule changes also played a part.
“There’s a lot of people that are just afraid of filing applications,” Silva said.
Silva said she would not be surprised if the citizenship application process triples to almost two years. USCIS reports the citizenship application backlog is at 675,000.
4. How has this impacted the agency?
The agency decided on fewer than half of its applications because of a stricter vetting process, which led to an increase in the backlog of all applications to 5.7 million cases.
The increased vetting process resulted in an increase in spending according to the Migration Policy Institute that reported anti-fraud detection costs more than doubled from FY 2016 TO FY 2020 from $177 million to $379 million.
5. What's being done?
Silva said the agency also plans to remove fee waivers which would hurt those impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
“A lot of people won’t have the money," Silva said.
6. What happens if Congress acts?
If Congress approves the funding request than, the agency will add an additional 10% application fee increase. It planned to increase application fees before the pandemic already. The proposed fee increase made last year includes an increase to the citizenship application by 83%.
FULL USCIS STATEMENT BELOW:
“On or before July 2, approximately 13,400 USCIS employees will receive notice that if USCIS must proceed with an administrative furlough, they would be furloughed beginning August 3. Though we continue to have productive conversations with Congress, we want employees who may be furloughed to have sufficient time to prepare. Further, we are legally required to provide employees with advance written notice at least 30 calendar days prior to the effective date of an expected furlough.
Unlike most other federal agencies, USCIS relies on fees, not appropriated or taxpayer funds, to run our organization. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS has seen a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees starting in March and estimates that application and petition receipts will stay well below plan through the end of Fiscal Year 2020. This dramatic drop in revenue has made it impossible for our agency to operate at full capacity. Without additional funding from Congress before August 3, USCIS has no choice but to administratively furlough a substantial portion of our workforce.
On May 15, USCIS notified Congress of a projected budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and requested emergency funding of $1.2 billion to ensure we can carry out our mission of administering our nation's lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity, and protecting the American people. Importantly, this funding proposal also protects American taxpayers by requiring USCIS to pay the money back to the U.S. Treasury. USCIS would repay these funds by adding a 10% surcharge to applications.”