US visa applicants could be in for a long wait as the agency that administers the visa process is fast running out of funds. The pandemic and consequent lockdowns in many parts of the US has halved receipts from visa applications and petitions, impacting the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) ability to function effectively. USCIS relies primarily on income from visa processing to run operations.
More than half of the agency’s 18,700 employees may be furloughed beginning July, the USCIS is believed to have informally told staff, according to a letter sent by Everett Kelley, the national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, to the US Senate and Congress.
USCIS told ET in an emailed response that without US Congressional intervention, it will “need to administratively furlough a portion of employees on approximately July 20. We continue to work with Congress to provide the necessary funding to avert this.”
Immigration policy experts said the likely furloughs will extend processing times. The deadline to file select H-1B visa petitions is June 30, and if the agency is unable to process these on time, companies may not be able to send employees to the US before the October 1 start date of the visa. Over two-thirds of H-1B visa petitions submitted this year are by Indian nationals.
“These furloughs will have a significant impact on visa applications as it will further delay adjudications. Processing times are already extensive, and this will further add to the problem,” said Nandini Nair, immigration partner at law firm Greenspoon Marder.