Backlogs and wait times for US visas, green cards set to increase

Cash strapped USCIS to carry on till September end with aggressive spending cuts.

Despite a budget deficit of $1.2 billion due to covid-19 induced closures, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) hopes to maintain its operations through the end of fiscal year 2020 ending Sep. 30.

However, aggressive spending cuts to avert a furlough of over 13,000 employees will impact all agency operations and increase backlogs and wait times across the board, including H-1B and other work visas, the agency said Tuesday,

USCIS said it would avert an administrative furlough scheduled to begin Aug. 30 as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts.

Earlier this month USCIS had announced an increase in fees for dozens of applications from immigration and work visas to naturalization from Oct. 2 by an average of 20%.

This included a new $10 fee for the registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B petitions on behalf of cap-subject aliens.

However, aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations, including naturalizations, and will drastically impact agency contracts, USCIS warned.

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“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “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,” he said.

“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,” Edlow said.

The additional cost savings come through the descoping of federal contracts that assist USCIS adjudicators in processing and preparing case files as well as a myriad of other support activities, USCIS said.

Anticipated operational impacts include increased wait times for pending case inquiries with the USCIS Contact Center, longer case processing times, and increased adjudication time for aliens adjusting status or naturalizing, it said. However, naturalization ceremonies will continue.

Previously, members of Congress requested that agency leadership avoid operational cuts of this magnitude, USCIS noted.

However, Congress must still act on a long-term solution that will provide USCIS with the necessary financial assistance to sustain the agency throughout FY 2021 and beyond, it said.


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USCIS hikes immigration, work visa fees by 20 percent (August 1, 2020)

USCIS rule changes to prevent H-1B work visa fraud (July 31, 2020)

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