In August 2020, news began circulating that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) was expecting to furlough nearly 70% of its employees, which would be around 13,000 individuals. This was troubling news for many immigrants, especially those pursuing the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. EB-5 investors have already faced many challenges in 2020 due to the U.S. embassy and consulate closures and other setbacks related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, on August 25, 2020, USCIS announced it was able to avoid the anticipated furlough.
The scheduled USCIS furlough could have significantly increased wait times for immigrants of all kinds. USCIS is already hurting in 2020—the agency has already had to increase processing fees in 2020 to cover operating costs. Because of Covid-19 and President Trump’s immigration ban, there has been a major decrease in the number of applications filed, drastically cutting into USCIS’s funds. If the furlough had not been averted, USCIS would have struggled to continue the adjudication process due to the decrease in manpower.
According to the agency, the furlough was avoided by cutting expenses and increasing revenue and receipts. Although the furlough was scheduled for August 30, 2020, USCIS predicts that it will be able to maintain operations at least until the end of FY2020, which ends on September 31, 2020.
Despite the relief this announcement brings, USCIS is not in the clear yet. EB-5 investors should be aware that there is still potential for future furloughs, which could significantly disrupt the EB-5 process. According to USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow, USCIS will need congressional intervention in order to continue normal operations throughout FY2021. EB-5 investors should anticipate longer wait times during the adjudication process, as well as more visa backlogs. They are furthermore encouraged to monitor the monthly Visa Bulletin to stay updated on which countries are backlogged and when they can resume their EB-5 process.