USCIS has informed its workforce that the agency plans to furlough approximately 13,400 employees beginning on August 3. The agency anticipates this will last for at least 30 days, with the potential to last three months or longer. This action comes after months of anticipating a financial crisis due to COVID-19.
Almost 98% of USCIS funding comes from filing fees, and the agency says that it has experienced a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees since the start of the pandemic. On May 15, USCIS requested emergency funding of $1.2 billion and planned to repay this loan by adding a 10% surcharge to applications filed. The agency informed Congress that if no action was taken before August 3, 2020, USCIS would need to furlough more than 13,000 employees.
We agree with other observers that a massive USCIS furlough would bring adjudications and other agency actions to a near halt. It is possible that Congress could bail out the agency, but it is unclear whether the Trump Administration would support additional funding for USCIS. Without support from the Administration, it is hard to imagine Congress – on its own – providing the funds.
We expect USCIS to provide guidance on the service impacts of these furloughs. Chin & Curtis attorneys will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates once they are available.