In August 2020, news that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would be furloughing around 70% of its employees (over 13,000 people) has long been floating around the EB-5 sphere. The furloughs would have likely dramatically impacted a wide range of immigrants, from K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicants to investors in the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. The impacts of such a furlough could have been devastating for EB-5 investors, who have already suffered immensely in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the related U.S. embassy and consulate closures, which prevented many of them from receiving visa interviews for their U.S. green cards. To the relief of EB-5 participants worldwide, on August 25, 2020, USCIS announced that the planned furlough would be averted.
USCIS is responsible for processing applications for immigration into the United States, including EB-5 applications such as Form I-526. One of the key services USCIS provides is visa and green card services, processing applications for not only EB-5 investors but any kind of prospective immigrant into the United States, whether for professional or familial reasons. Already, USCIS has had to increase various processing fees to cover its operating costs, having taken a major blow from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s immigration ban. With 70% of its workers furloughed, the agency would have hardly had the resources to continue adjudicating immigration petitions.
The furlough was originally scheduled for August 30, 2020, but thousands of USCIS employees and prospective immigrants into the United States dodged a bullet when the agency announced its plans to avert. According to USCIS, by reducing spending and upping revenue and receipts, the agency was able to avoid the scheduled furlough. UCSIS estimates it will now be able to maintain operations at least until the end of FY2020, which ends on September 31, 2020.
EB-5 investors should continue to be wary because, while USCIS was able to stave off these furloughs, the possibility of future furloughs remains. To continue normal operations throughout FY2021, USCIS will require congressional intervention, according to USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. As it stands, EB-5 investors and other prospective immigrants should expect longer waiting times for petition adjudication. Backlogs are to be expected, and more countries may find themselves stuck in EB-5 backlogs, doomed to check the monthly Visa Bulletins to determine whether they can proceed with their EB-5 journey.