News of the plan of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to furlough 70% of its employees at the end of August 2020 circulated through the EB-5 community for months prior. The agency indicated that more than 13,000 staff members would be impacted by the action. Worse, they weren’t the only ones whose futures were at stake.
An array of immigration programs would have experienced a dramatic impact, thus affecting a wide range of immigrants, from K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicants to EB-5 program investors. This is because USCIS oversees the processing of petitions from all kinds of prospective immigrants. The agency had previously increased various processing fees to help cover operational costs after COVID-19 hit and President Trump signed off on an immigration ban. But a 70% cut in staff would not leave USCIS with enough employees to reasonably continue adjudicating the masses of immigration petitions that flow into the agency.
A furlough of this size could have been particularly devastating for those investing in the EB-5 program. Already, EB-5 immigration applicants have faced immense challenges in 2020 due to temporary – but lengthy – U.S. embassy and consulate shutdowns in the wake of the global pandemic. These closures meant no visa interviews, preventing many from securing their U.S. green cards.
Therefore, the August 25, 2020, announcement has come with great relief for EB-5 participants all over the world – USCIS has averted its furlough plans… for at least another month. Through spending reductions and increases in revenue and receipts, the agency narrowly avoided the scheduled furlough. USCIS has estimated that it can cover operational costs without the furlough at least through September 30, 2020, when FY2020 comes to a close.
That said, EB-5 investors are not completely in the clear. Rather, USCIS has bought an additional month to allow for congressional intervention. Joseph Edlow, USCIS Deputy Director for Policy, believes this is the only surefire way to permanently stave off a furlough in FY2021. All EB-5 program participants can expect slower petition processing and adjudication in the meantime, as backlogs are likely to increase. Be sure to check the monthly Visa Bulletins for the latest information as it pertains to your EB-5 journey.