Proposed USCIS furlough could impact tech firms


PUNE: People applying for a US visa could potentially be in for a long wait as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) which administers the visa process is on the verge of running out of funds. According to the reports in the US media, the agency has said that it would have to furlough over 10,000 employees for a month, starting at the end of July if its request for emergency funding is denied by Congress.

Following the national lockdown which was announced in the US about two months ago, application and petition receipts have dropped to half, impacting the ability of the agency to continue to function effectively. The USCIS relies primarily on income from visa processing to keep itself running.

The agency has requested the Congress for $1.2 billion in aid over two years and proposes adding a 10% surcharge to immigration petitions.

Immigration policy experts said that if USCIS employees were to be furloughed, this would lead to longer processing times and create massive backlogs, effectively shutting down the immigration process. The deadline to file selected H-1B visa petitions is 30th June, and if the agency is unable to process these in time, companies may not be able to send employees to the US in time for the 1st October start date of the visa. Over two-thirds of the H-1B visa petitions submitted for this year are for Indian nationals.

The USCIS, which operates under the Department of Homeland Security plays an important role in the US immigration system. In addition to immigration applications, it also processes work permits and asylum screenings, apart from issuing green cards.

Over the last two months, the USCIS has been accepting applications over email but several people are withholding non-immigrant visa petitions till there is clarity on the situation in the country. Last month, US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order temporarily halting certain immigration for certain categories with a provision to extend this to non-immigrant visas as well.

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