On Tuesday, August 25, 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had halted its plans to furlough approximately thirteen thousand four hundred (13,400) of its employees, amounting to seventy percent (70%) of its workforce. The decision to halt these furloughs came on the heels of pressure from lawmakers who argued that the layoffs were not only financially unnecessary, but would also have a devastating human toll. USCIS is the federal agency responsible for processing petitions for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas, as well as other immigration benefits. A furlough of the size expected would have severely decreased USCIS’s ability to process those petitions.
The House of Representatives on Saturday, August 22, 2020, unanimously passed a measure with the aim of increasing USCIS’s revenue. This measure then prompted President Donald J. Trump’s administration to cancel its plans to furlough the significant number of USCIS employees.
In a press release, USCIS has stated that it plans to implement aggressive cost saving initiatives and expects to maintain its operations through the end of the fiscal year. The press release goes on to state that these planned cost saving initiatives will result in some delay in the processing of petitions, but have not provided an estimate of the number of affected petitions or the length of the delay. USCIS continued to state that the avoidance of the furlough has come at an operational cost that will increase backlogs and will likely not put a stop to future furloughs. According to the Deputy Director of Policy at USCIS, Joseph Edlow, a return to normalcy, as far as operating procedures are concerned, would require the intervention of Congress.