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USCIS May Furlough 13,400 Employees on August 3, 2020

Update 7/29: The US Congress has delayed furloughs until the end of August. This delay is intended to allow Congress enough time to act and provide USCIS with the funding needed in order to avert the administrative furlough all together.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a dramatic drop in immigration filings with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is funded almost entirely by filing fees.

Due to the revenue shortfall, USCIS plans to furlough 13,400 of its nearly 20,000 employees on August 3, 2020, unless Congress approves $1.2 billion in emergency funding. The furlough could last until October 1, 2020, the start of the federal government’s new fiscal year.

It is currently unclear whether Congress will authorize the emergency funding. Several possible outcomes:

  • Outcome 1: If Congress provides the $1.2 billion emergency funding, then the USCIS furlough will not happen. 
  • Outcome 2: If Congress does not provide any emergency funding, then the USCIS furlough will start August 3rd.
  • Outcome 3: If Congress provides some emergency funding (but not the full $1.2 billion), then the furlough may likely still go into effect on August 3rd but for a shorter duration.

In the event that the USCIS furlough happens, Legalpad anticipates the following impact:

Prediction #1: USCIS will likely continue to accept immigration applications and petitions. You will still be able to submit filings to USCIS, both for temporary work classifications (such as O-1, H-1B, TN, L-1, etc.), family-based and employment-based immigrant petitions (I-130 and I-140 petitions), and green card applications. The furlough will not impact your ability to file with USCIS.

Prediction #2: There will be significant delays in USCIS processing time. Even though filings will be accepted, it will take significantly longer for USCIS to review and issue final decisions. Adjudication timeline will increase. The extent of the delay will depend on how long the furlough lasts, who at USCIS is furloughed, and the extent of the backlog post-furlough.

Prediction #3: Premium processing may not be honored. Premium processing is an expedited option that allows eligible petitions to receive a decision from USCIS within 15 days of filing. If the furlough happens, and approximately 70% of USCIS employees are not working, it is unclear whether the 15-day premium processing timeline will be achievable. It may take longer to receive a decision, even if a petition was filed with premium processing.

This is a rapidly evolving situation, and the above predictions are based on currently available information. Legalpad is carefully monitoring developments to keep you informed.