Immigration agency asks for emergency funds, will raise fees

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government agency that processes citizenship applications and work visas is running out of money because of the COVID-19 pandemic and says it needs to raise its fees and receive emergency funding from Congress to stay afloat.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is typically funded through the fees it charges people seeking to live or work in the country. But the agency said Sunday that it has seen a dramatic decrease in applications as a result of the pandemic.

Much of the U.S. immigration system has ground to a halt. Nearly all visa processing by the State Department is suspended and travel to the U.S. has been restricted. In April, President Donald Trump announced a 60-day pause on the issuance of green cards to limit competition for jobs in a U.S. economy wrecked by the coronavirus.

USCIS said in a statement that it expects its revenue will drop by about 61% through the end of the year.

It sent a request to Congress on Friday for $1.2 billion in emergency funding. It said it would reimburse taxpayers by adding a 10% surcharge to application fees.

The agency did not say whether it would seek to reduce its workforce or impose furloughs, but said it has cut expenses and would “have to take drastic actions to keep the agency afloat” without the emergency funding from Congress.

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