USCIS Seeks $1.2 Billion Bailout To Remain Operational

USCIS has asked Congress for a $1.2 billion cash injection to avert solvency issues resulting from the COVID—19 crisis.

USCIS depends on visa application fees to fund its expenditure. There are concerns revenue could potentially drop by more than 60% by the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2020.

Given the dramatic fall in the number of applications being filed, the agency is now seeking emergency funding to maintain operations. It warns it could run out of money as soon as the summer.

USCIS deputy director for policy, Joseph Edlow, has now expressed concerns that “a portion” of agency employees could be furloughed from July 20, if Congress does not agree to the funds.

USCIS has also advised it would be increasing visa application fees by a further 10% on top of the increase previously announced.

Agency in crisis

Beyond the impact of the COVID crisis, critics consider the agency is also suffering the effects of the Trump Administration’s strict position on US immigration.

The US immigration system is notoriously complex. Individual petitions are time and document-intensive, not just on the petitioner, their employer and advisers – but also on the agency itself.

The increased scrutiny that has faced petitioners under the Trump Administration has to be resourced, which has led to slower processing, backlogs and delays – which costs more.

The number of RFEs issued, for example, have soared under Trump’s Presidency. These typically take longer to process than the initial application. H1-B visa extensions are also, under new rules, processed as though the petitioner is an entirely new applicant without reference to the initial application, which again is less time-efficient.

Changes in immigration policy and processing are dissuading people from making applications. Fewer applications necessarily mean lower revenues. Specific policies such as the public charge rule have been cited as deterring applicants and causing a drop in Green Card applications. Under the rule, immigrants do not qualify for US lawful permanent residence (LPR) if they are considered likely to rely on government benefits.

There is also criticism that investment in the agency under Trump has focused on targeting illegal immigration and adding to the adjudication process, rather than improving adjudication processing efficiencies.

US immigration advice

Without the sustained level of applications and income needed to maintain operations, and with petitioners generally deterred, the agency is clearly facing a crisis and it will be interesting to see how Congress responds to the cry for help. We will continue to keep you informed of developments impacting the functioning of USCIS.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

Last updated: 28 May 2020