The federal agency that processes U.S. visas has announced it will avoid furloughing 70% of its staff next week but warned visa applicants to expect a long wait time.
“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, said Joseph Edlow, deputy director for policy at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
“A return to normal operating procedures requires congressional intervention to sustain the agency through fiscal year 2021,” he added.
Although the agency said it expects to continue functioning for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, “aggressive” spending cuts, including a reduction in the number of contract workers, will impact all its operations. Among other things, USCIS handles work permits, asylum requests, green card applications and naturalizations.
USCIS is unlike most federal agencies because it receives funds mostly from fee collection. The coronavirus pandemic cut that income by 50% because there were fewer applications.
Congress turned down its appeal for emergency funds in May, saying USCIS has all the money it needs for the rest of the fiscal year.
Last month, the agency announced it will increase fees as of October 2.