On Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, USCIS announced that it will not move forward with plans to furlough more than 13,000 employees—almost 70% of its workforce—a move which would have taken effect on Aug. 30. The agency credits substantial spending cuts and increasing revenue and receipts with the ability to keep its employees on staff. It also expects to be able to maintain its current status quo through the end of the 2020 fiscal year.
“Our workforce is the backbone of every USCIS accomplishment,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow in a news release. “Their resilience and strength of character always serves the nation well, but in this year of uncertainty, they remain steadfast in their mission administering our nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and protecting the American people, even as a furlough loomed before them.”
The news release also states that spending reductions will affect all agency operations (including naturalizations) and have an impact on agency contracts. The majority of its cost savings came from the reduction of federal contracts that help USCIS adjudicators perform duties like processing and preparing case files. As a result, those requiring USCIS services can expect longer wait times for pending case inquiries, longer case processing times, and longer adjudication times for those adjusting status or naturalizing. However, naturalization ceremonies are still slated to continue.
“Averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs,” warned Edlow. “A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021.”
The furlough slated to begin on Aug. 30 would have had drastic effects on services like processing green card applications, citizenship applications, work permit applications, and other benefits. This situation has been avoided for now, but without further action from the U.S. Congress, USCIS can only sustain itself for so long.
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