Immigration and Compliance Briefing: Department of Homeland Security Agency Updates for July
USCIS Plans to Furlough Over 13,000 U.S. Employees
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the agency, which is almost exclusively funded by immigration application filing fees, is facing a severe budget deficit and will not be able to sustain normal operations through the summer. As a result, USCIS has requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress, which it would repay by implementing a 10% surcharge on immigration application costs. If Congress does not approve the additional funding, the agency expects to furlough over 13,000 U.S. employees, representing nearly 70% of its workforce, beginning in August. Furloughs are expected to happen across all USCIS departments and offices. With a significantly reduced workforce, increased processing times for nearly every type of immigration application are expected (application processing times already are backlogged to over a year for some applications).
USCIS Extends Temporary Flexibility for RFE Deadlines
In response to COVID-19, USCIS announced in March that it would automatically grant an additional 60 calendar days for applicants and petitioners to respond to certain Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs). The initial policy applied to RFEs and NOIDs dated between March 1, 2020 and May 1, 2020. Since the initial announcement, USCIS has extended and expanded this policy to include additional types of agency requests.
The current policy grants an additional 60 calendar days for responding to the following types of agency requests dated between March 1, 2020 and September 11, 2020: Requests for Evidence; Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14); Notices of Intent to Deny; Notices of Intent to Revoke; Notices of Intent to Rescind and Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers; filing date requirements for Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA); or filing date requirements for Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion.
USCIS Reschedules Naturalization Ceremonies
Due to COVID-19 related closures of in-person services, USCIS had temporarily cancelled many naturalization ceremonies scheduled for March, April, and May. USCIS has since resumed in-person operations and recently announced that it expects to conduct “nearly all” of the impacted naturalization ceremonies by the end of July.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Updates
The United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaces the prior North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), entered into force on July 1, 2020.
Due to the continued effects of COVID-19, CBP has postponed reopening of Trusted Traveler Programs Enrollment Centers. The following additional temporary policies remain in place:
Applicants now have 485 days from the date of conditional approval of their trusted traveler application to complete the enrollment process.
CBP will extend member benefits for 18 months to members who apply for renewal of their Trusted Traveler Program prior to their membership expiration.