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Featured Issue: USCIS Budget Shortfall and Furloughs

Latest Updates

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.

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

Past Updates

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 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 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


Call for Examples: Sympathetic Stories Highlighting Negative Impact of USCIS Furloughs

To further advocacy efforts before Congress and the press, AILA is seeking sympathetic stories of foreign nationals or U.S. businesses who would be negatively impacted if the furlough of over 13,000 USCIS employees comes to fruition on August 30, 2020.

Submit Examples


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.

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."

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

Media Resources