A budget gap in the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is the most important American immigration-related agency, can have serious impacts on families, companies, entrepreneurs, investors and students seeking American visas. According to information released by AILA, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the USCIS faces a deficit of $ 1.2 billion for this year and will be forced to furlough more than 13,000 employees on unpaid leave among August and October.
AILA fears that the result is that the furlough might damage the U.S visa granting processes. Among them, visas for those who qualify for the Green Card, which is the permanent residence visa for qualified professionals and their families.
The impact on the service provided by the agency can even be very hard. There were already signs that the USCIS was not handling the service. Even with an increase of about 4,000 employees since 2016, according to the New York Times, in a total of 19,000 people, the agency has not been able to maintain the deadlines for analysis and conduct of the processes, experiencing today a long delay in the judgment, document issuance and interviews.
USCIS is an American public service and, like any public service (in the USA or anywhere in the world), has its hardships and problems. According to available data, around 97% of the agency's budget (US $ 4.8 billion annually) comes from fees charged for visas and services provided to both foreigners and Americans applying for visas to third parties. It was already speculated, since November 2019, that USCIS was considering an increase in the value of its fees, which could rise up to 60% to cover expenses.
Together, there is also speculation in the matter, stimulated by the recent anti-immigration actions of the American government. For people who follow this tendency, the USCIS crisis could be a political strategy to indirectly force the decrease in the number of immigrants in the country.
The USCIS had, until August 3, to find a solution for the problem, including a request for additional funding sent to the US Congress. Because there was no solution so far, that date has just been postponed to August 31st.
USCIS has not commented on the effects that the furlough of employees may have in the agency's working conditions and service offerings, especially regarding the immigration process’ deadlines, including for current processing cases. And this is a uncertainty that seriously affects several families that seek visas to unite their members, companies that need qualified labor, entrepreneurs who want to invest in the country, educational and research institutions that cannot work without teachers and researchers, among so many other sectors and professional categories involved.