U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently asked Congress for $1.2 billion in emergency funding in order to continue operations. USCIS also intends to impose a 10 percent surcharge on new immigration applications to repay U.S. taxpayers for this emergency funding. This surcharge is in addition to anticipated fee increases announced in 2019. Without this emergency funding, USCIS could run out of funds this summer.
As background, USCIS is the agency that processes immigration applications, including those for citizenship, permanent residency, and various types of work visas. Historically, USCIS has operated based on revenues from government filing fees required for most applications. However, the agency is expecting a 60 percent decline in immigration submissions by the end of this fiscal year, due to declining demand attributed to the COVID-19 crisis. More generally, USCIS has seen a decline in the overall number of applications under the current administration, which has created a more challenging approval process as a result of various immigration-related executive orders and policy changes. In March 2020, USCIS suspended its fast-track premium processing service due to the agency’s belief that it was unable to meet the mandated 15-day processing time. This resulted in a loss of a $1,440 per eligible case.
Continued revenue loss to USCIS would undoubtedly impact pending applications as it could lead to further staff reductions at an agency that has struggled to timely process applications at current filing levels. This could lead to even longer processing times, thereby frustrating individuals and companies still applying for various immigration benefits.
Ogletree Deakins’ Immigration Practice Group will continue to monitor developments with respect to the USCIS policy changes and will post updates on the Immigration blog as additional information becomes available.