Get the AC23 better-late-than-never discount. Use code AC23100REG for $100 off the advance member rate. Offer expires on May 30.

Featured Issue: USCIS Budget Shortfall and Furloughs

This page is no longer actively updated. Please use the InfoNet Research Library to search for more up-to-date information.

Latest Updates

USCIS recently made publicly available the five-year plan that DHS Secretary Mayorkas provided to Congress in September 2021 pursuant to section 4103 of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The plan outlines USCIS’s five-year plan to enable electronic filing for all applications and petitions for immigration benefits, accept electronic payments at all filing locations, issue correspondence electronically, and improve processing times for all immigration and naturalization benefit requests.

On December 16, 2021, AILA and 13 coalition partners sent a follow-up letter to USCIS regarding implementation of the provisions of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act that were included in H.R. 8337: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, as USCIS did not provide a response to an earlier letter sent on March 1, 2021.

On December 8, 2021, DHS/USCIS sent a final rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) entitled “Adjustment to Premium Processing.” The Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act provisions included in H.R. 8337 expanded USCIS authority to establish and collect additional premium processing fees and to use those additional funds for expanded purposes. To that end, through this rulemaking, DHS will establish new benefit requests eligible for premium processing but limited to those conditions and eligibility requirements set forth in section 4102(b) of the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act. The final rule remains pending review by OIRA.

Summary of Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act

On September 30, 2020 the President signed H.R. 8337 - the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act, which will fund the government through December 11, 2020. The bill, introduced on September 22, 2020, Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) includes the language from Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (H.R. 8089), seeks to address USCIS budget shortfall by giving the agency immediate access to existing premium processing funds that were dedicated to infrastructure improvement to cover operating expenses. It also increases revenues by raising existing premium processing fees for most form types and expanding premium processing to other form types to address USCIS’s current budget shortfall. The relevant language begins on page 30 of the Act. Please note that while the law takes effect immediately, the increased fees and expanded availability of premium processing will not take effect until USCIS is able to implement. Timing of implementation is unknown at this time, but we expect a public announcement will be made. The bill would:

  1. Immediately give USCIS access to premium processing funds to pay for operational expenses, which are otherwise reserved for infrastructure improvement.
  2. Authorizes premium processing services to be provided to:
    1. Employment-based nonimmigrant petitions and associated applications for dependents;
    2. Form I-140 petitions;
    3. Form I-539;
    4. Form I-765; and
    5. Any other immigration benefit type deemed appropriate by the Secretary.
  3. Increases the premium processing fee for benefit requests that are already eligible for premium processing services from $1,440 to $2,500, except for H-2B and R-1 petitions.
  4. Requires rulemaking to set fees for expanded premium processing services, but it must be consistent with the following:
    1. EB-1 petitions for Multinational Managers and Executives or EB-2 NIW petitions – fee is no greater than $2,500 and processing time is no greater than 45 days.
    2. Change of status requests for F, J and M - fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
    3. Change of status requests for dependents seeking E, H, L, O, P and R – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
    4. Form I-765 – fee is no greater than $1,750 and processing time is no greater than 30 days.
  5. Allows for a biennial adjustment of premium processing fees based on the Consumer Price Index without rulemaking.
  6. Clarifies that the processing time clock does not begin until “all prerequisites for adjudication are received” by DHS.
  7. Ensures that providing expanded premium processing services does not result in an increase in processing times for other benefit applications.
  8. Requires a semi-annual congressional briefing and that within 180 days, USCIS provide a five year plan on establishing:
    1. Electronic filing procedures for all applications and petitions;
    2. Acceptance of electronic filing at all locations; and
    3. Issuance of all correspondence and notices electronically; and
    4. Improving processing times for all immigration and naturalization benefit requests.

Read H.R. 8337   Read Section-by-Section of H.R. 8337

Past Updates

On September 10, 2020, the Kansas Reflector reported that USCIS intends to furlough 800 people who work for a private contractor at the agency's National Benefit Center (NBC) in Lee's Summit, Missouri. The NBC collects information, conducts background checks, and prepares a variety of applications for USCIS's local field offices. Agency cutbacks like this furlough of private contractors will increase backlogs and processing delays throughout the country. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) led a group of his colleagues in sending a bipartisan, bicameral letter to USCIS requesting a briefing to better understand how the agency reached this decision.

AILA continues to support the bi-partisan Case Backlog and Transparency Act of 2020, H.R 5971, and urges Congress to pass this much needed legislation along with other measures to get the agency back on track. Email your members of Congress to support H.R. 5971

Read AILA's Statement on USCIS's Announcement   Take Action

On August 25, 2020, USCIS announced that it will avert an administrative furlough of more than 13,000 employees, or nearly 70 percent of its workforce, that was scheduled to begin August 30, 2020, "as a result of unprecedented spending cuts and a steady increase in daily incoming revenue and receipts."

USCIS expects to be able to maintain operations through the end of FY2020. USCIS states, however, that “Aggressive spending reduction measures will impact all agency operations, including naturalizations, and will drastically impact agency contracts.”

On August 22, 2020, the bipartisan Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act (H.R. 8089) was introduced. The bill, which passed by unanimous consent in the House on August 22, 2020, seeks to immediately increase USCIS premium processing revenues. It is unclear when and if the bill will be introduced or considered in the Senate.

Read H.R. 8089   View Section-By-Section Summary of H.R. 8089

In May 2020, USCIS notified Congress of a massive projected budget shortfall that is threatening the agency’s operations and the financial wellbeing of thousands of USCIS employees. USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress to keep the agency afloat. Without this funding, USCIS claimed that it would not have sufficient funds to maintain its operations through the end of the fiscal year or to fund its operations during the first quarter of FY2021.

USCIS started issuing furlough notices to its employees, anticipating that the agency would need to furlough approximately 13,400 employees starting August 30, 2020, if the agency did not receive funding from Congress. (Furloughs were initially set to begin on August 3, 2020, but were postponed.) Employees were to remain furloughed until October 1, 2020.

Potential Impact of Furloughs on the U.S. Legal Immigration System

  • The anticipated agency furloughs will halt U.S. immigration, negatively impacting families, U.S. businesses, educational institutions, medical facilities, and churches.
  • If USCIS is essentially shut down, immigrants who are in the process of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens will not be able to complete the process in time to register to vote, DACA recipients will not be able to renew their benefits, asylum applicants will face increased delays, and businesses will be unable to hire or retain employees.
  • According to the Migration Policy Institute, “For each month the USCIS furlough lasts, 75,000 applications for various immigration benefits will not be processed.”

Potential Impact of Furloughs on the USCIS Ombudsman’s Office

AILA Resources

USCIS’s $1.2 Billion Emergency Funding Request

Congressional Efforts

  • Missouri and Kansas Members of Congress Send Letter to USCIS Regarding Contractor Furloughs in Kansas City - August 31, 2020
  • H.R. 8089: The Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act
  • House Homeland and Border Security Chairpersons Send Letter Calling for Delay of USCIS Furloughs – August 21, 2020
  • House and Senate Committee Leaders Send Bicameral, Bipartisan Letter Calling for Delay of USCIS Furloughs – August 21, 2020
  • Senator Leahy Urges USCIS to Further Delay Unnecessary Staff Furloughs – August 18, 2020
  • On July 29, 2020, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship conducted a USCIS oversight hearing. The hearing consisted of a government panel with Joseph Edlow, Deputy Director of USCIS, as well as a non-government panel. AILA’s Director of Government Relations Shev Dalal-Dheini testified in the non-government panel, along with Doug Rand of Boundless, Michael Knowles, President of AFGE Local 1924, the local USCIS labor union, and Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies.

  • Senators Calls on DHS and USCIS to Save USCIS Employees from Unnecessary Furloughs - July 21, 2020
  • Senators Call for Emergency Funding of USCIS with Appropriate Guardrails to Ensure Responsibility and Accountability - July 16, 2020
  • H.R.7508: Supplemental Appropriations to USCIS – July 9, 2020

Media Resources