In May, USCIS first notified Congress of a projected budget shortfall and asked for $1.2 billion in emergency funding that would stretch into the beginning of the next fiscal year. Recently, USCIS formally notified the American Federation of Government Employees that nearly 70 percent of the agency’s employees could face extended furloughs starting as early as August 3 unless Congress provides the funding. USCIS, which is largely funded by application fees, has nearly 20,000 federal employees overall, not including contractors. USCIS confirmed in a statement that without additional appropriations from Congress, the agency “will need to administratively furlough approximately 13,400 employees.”
USCIS has stated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has seen a dramatic decrease in revenue and is seeking a one-time emergency request. USCIS does not believe it will not have sufficient funding to maintain operations through the September 30 end of the fiscal year, nor will USCIS have balances to fund its operations during the first quarter of FY 2021.
The potential furlough of so many federal employees could lead to a significant increase in wait time for people waiting for immigration benefits and delay the naturalizations of hundreds of thousands of immigrants on the cusp of becoming U.S. citizens but have seen their oath ceremonies delayed by the pandemic.