USCIS Budget Fix May Not be Enough to Halt Furloughs
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has warned that it faces a budget shortfall and intends to furlough 13,000 of its 18,700 staff at the end of this month. The planned furlough of 70% of USCIS workers would bring USCIS to operations to a standstill halt and leave U.S. employers, foreign workers, and families in limbo. The House of Representatives passed the Emergency Stopgap USCIS Stabilization Act yesterday in an effort to save the agency. The bill aims to use the premium processing service to increase funding for the agency.
While the bill expands the types of applications that are eligible for premium processing, such as EB-1C multinational executives and managers and Employment Authorization applications, it also increases the premium processing fee from $1,440 to $2,500. At the same time, the bill provides little oversight of regular processing times, thus practically making premium processing the only option to obtain basic services from the agency. In addition, the Senate is not in session and is not scheduled to return until after Labor Day, meaning this bill may be too late to stop furloughs from happening next week.
Employers should be concerned regarding USCIS’ claims that it will need to implement furloughs unless Congress approves the agency’s $1.2 billion funding request, particularly when USCIS currently has the funds available to operate through at least the end of this fiscal year of September 30th. A furlough of this magnitude will bring the U.S. immigration system to a grinding halt and add to the already crisis-level processing backlogs.
Employers should consider sharing with Congress how the planned furloughs would negatively impact their businesses using the below template. You can find the name and address of your Senator by going to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. You can find the name and address of your Representative by going to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative. When addressing your letter, you can use the following format, but be sure to share the details of your story to really personalize it:
The Honorable [SENATOR/REPRESENTATIVE NAME]
United States Congress
Dear [SENATOR/REPRESENTATIVE NAME]:
On behalf of [COMPANY NAME], headquartered in [CITY, STATE], I want to express our concern regarding the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) claims that it will need to furlough over two-thirds of its workforce unless Congress approves the agency’s $1.2 billion funding request. This is despite the fact that USCIS now reports that it can pay its employees through the end of the fiscal year and will have a sizable carryover balance at the end of this fiscal year. A furlough of this magnitude will not only result in the loss of employment and healthcare benefits for over 13,000 U.S. workers across the country in the middle of a global pandemic, but will bring the U.S. immigration system to a grinding halt and add to the already crisis-level processing backlog.
[INSERT DESCRIPTION OF COMPANY AND IMPACT OF USCIS SHUTTING DOWN OPERATIONS]. We need USCIS to continue to adjudicate immigration benefit requests in order for us to continue to hire and retain employees who are essential to our business operations. A shutdown of USCIS would negatively impact our business operations, and by extent the U.S. economy and communities, during a national health crisis that is crippling our economy and has unemployment rates at a historical high.
We urge you to contact the Department of Homeland Security to request that USCIS avoid any furloughs for the remainder of FY2020. It is unnecessary and harmful for USCIS to furlough employees when it has financial means to pay its staff through the end of the fiscal year.
If you need any additional information or would like to meet regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at [PHONE OR EMAIL CONTACT].
By: Emily Neumann
Emily Neumann is Managing Partner at Reddy & Neumann, P.C. with 15 years of experience practicing US immigration law providing services to U.S. businesses and multinational corporations. Emily has been quoted in Bloomberg Law, U.S. News & World Report, Inside Higher Ed, and The Times of India on various hot topics in immigration. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Society for Human Resource Management.