After cancelling a planned furlough of 13,400 employees on August 30, 2020, USCIS expects processing backlogs and delays.
On August 25th, USCIS cancelled an August 30th furlough that would affect 70 percent of its staff. The agency first planned a furlough for August 3rd, but the furlough was postponed through August to give USCIS time to secure emergency funding. USCIS has diverted the furlough through FY 2020, which ends on September 30th, by securing essential funding through fee increases and spending cuts. The agency first announced a FY 2020 budget shortfall in May due to COVID-19 and other causes.
Although USCIS can continue its operations through the 2020 fiscal year, it cautions that its operational capacity will be severely limited due to spending cuts. Applicants should expect lengthy delays in application processing times and backlogs across all application categories. The agency will also cut costs by descoping federal contracts, which limits the volume of third-party assistance USCIS will receive for adjudication, case file preparation, and other support. Application fees and premium processing fees will increase as well.
Even though USCIS avoided a furlough in FY 2020, it warns that FY 2021 furloughs can only be avoided if it receives additional revenue. In addition to increasing fees and reducing expenses, USCIS has also requested emergency federal funding. The House of Representatives has passed a bill to provide the agency with $1.2 billion in revenue. If passed unchanged, the bill will extend premium processing to more categories and increase premium processing fees from $1,400 to $2,550 for some applications. The bill has yet to pass in the Senate.