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USCIS May Furlough Over 13,000 Employees

Posted June 30, 2020Articles

Beginning in August, approximately 13,400 employees of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services could be furloughed - a move that will effectively bring the U.S. immigration system gradually to a standstill.

Monday morning, USCIS employees were informed that 78% of the agency is going to be temporarily out of work. The furlough will start on August 3rd, and last for at least 30 days, potentially being extended to 3 months or longer. The reason given for the furlough was the declining revenues because of the COVID-19 ongoing pandemic.

  • USCIS has approximately 20,000 employees in total.
  • The $14.8 billion operating budget — nearly 97% — comes from filing fees for immigration petitions filed with the agency.
  • USCIS experienced a 50% decline in incoming fees starting in March, and is expecting to stay below average until the end of 2020.
  • USCIS issues more Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs) than previous years. The RFE rate increased from 22.3% in FY 2015 to 40.2% in FY2019 and was 47.2% in just the first quarter of FY2020. In many cases, the RFEs issued are requesting documentation that was already provided or unnecessary to demonstrate eligibility for the immigration benefit.
  • Furthermore, President Trump’s presidential proclamation reduced applications in visa categories that generate revenue for USCIS, such as H-1B, L-1, certain J1’s, and green card applications, by suspending consular processing for these categories.

On May 15, USCIS requested a $1.2 billion loan from Congress to be able to carry out their daily tasks and they would pay the money back to the Treasury with a 10% surcharge added to applications.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) would like to see the receipt of funding tied to more transparency and accountability in the use of the funds. USCIS actually held a significant surplus only a few years ago, but due to fiscal mismanagement and policy decisions to increase difficulty for obtaining immigration benefits, this surplus has now been depleted. A decision on this solution will likely not be made until the end of July at the earliest.  

We will continue to monitor this situation as it progresses and will provide updates as they are available.