Amidst news of the pandemic and budget shortages, there might be some confusion whether USCIS is still open and processing new and old cases.
Fortunately, the answer to this confusion is a simple one: USCIS is open and is accepting and processing applications.
The confusion may have been caused in part by the closure of USCIS for face-to-face services that happened back in March of this year. However, although they were closed for non-emergency face-to-face services, any procedures that simply required mailing in documents or filing documents online were and are still being processed. Most offices have since reopened, including all field offices. USCIS maintains a list of open and closed offices here.
More recently, there was also news about a potential furlough of over 13,000 USCIS staff members without Congressional action. This came in heels of a notice from USCIS that it is facing a budget deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is asking for $1.2 billion in emergency funding. If it does not receive said funding, then there will be a massive furlough of employees, which will likely slow down the processing of new and current applications before USCIS, but there is nothing yet that suggests that they will halt working at any point in the near future.
Interestingly, the reason for the budget deficits is because their budget relies so heavily on fees that they collect from applicants. Since the start of the pandemic, USCIS has seen a 50% drop in receipts and incoming fees and it believes this decrease will continue until the end of the Fiscal Year 2020. Some of this is likely due to the Trump administration’s suspension of certain types of immigration, but there are still plenty of people eligible for immigration benefits. Another part of the decrease in immigration cases is likely due to people choosing not to initiate their proceedings due to either a misunderstanding about the limitations on immigration or a misunderstanding about whether USCIS is still processing applications. Therefore, starting and sending in an application can help USCIS keep operating without cuts and slowdowns!
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