26 Aug USCIS Cancels Furloughs for 70% of its Staff!
In a massive turnaround, the US Citizenship & Immigration Services canceled the furlough of 13,000 of its staff.
The US Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the agency responsible for issuing US visa and nationality benefits, has had recent financial troubles that lead the threat of forced unpaid time off of nearly 70% of its staff starting on August 30th, announced yesterday that the furloughs would be canceled. The cancellation was “a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.” The USCIS, which charges fees for the services it provides to the public, has been a self-funding agency even in times when the US government shut down.
For a US government agency that has been besieged by growing application wait times, this was going to be disastrous for those who need to apply for naturalization, family and employment-based immigration benefits. Although, the USCIS announcement’s headline, “Drastic cuts will impact agency operations for the foreseeable future” does not bode well for continued operations best summed up by USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow:
“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment. Their resilience and strength of character always serves the nation well, but in this year of uncertainty, they remain steadfast in their mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and protecting the American people, even as a furlough loomed before them,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “However, averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs. A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.” (Emphasis added)
Although, it has been reported by Government Executive that “while it initially projected a shortfall of $571 million in fiscal 2020, the agency now expects to end the fiscal year with a surplus of more than $230 million, according to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.” Director Edlow did caution that there could still be furloughs in the future which is likely not going to help the sinking morale of USCIS staff who have had the threat of furlough all summer hanging over their heads. It is a concern that the expertise in reviewing US immigration benefits will be lost as agency staff will decide to work elsewhere as the threat of furlough is still there.
This comes on top of the USCIS operations abroad such as the USCIS office in London and other international locations closing down earlier this year which has significantly impacted US citizens who live outside the US and wish to bring their immediate family members.
How will this affect US immigration benefits processing?
In the best of times, USCIS processing is never as quick as the person requesting the benefit would want it. Therefore, it is expected that processing times will increase and our firm will keep this in mind when advising our clients. Instead of setting up operations that would promote the most experienced and capable or US citizens to reunite with family members, the Trump administration has made a concerted effort to dismantle the USCIS to slow down the process of US temporary visas, permanent immigration and naturalization.
If you require advice or assistance with applying for a US visa or immigration benefit, please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that this blog is for information purposes only and is not formal legal advice.