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Need a visa to visit the US? Expect much longer wait times, officials warn

Need a visa to visit the US? Expect much longer wait times, officials warn

People stand on the steps of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York on Aug 15, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/Keith Bedford)

WASHINGTON: The US agency in charge of processing immigration applications said on Tuesday (Aug 25) that it had avoided a planned furlough of 70 per cent of its staff but warned that it still faced financial hardship that could result in some applicants experiencing longer wait times.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency in charge of processing work permits, so-called green cards and other visas, said that it had avoided furloughs planned for Aug 30. But aggressive spending cuts the agency planned to put in place would impact all operations, including naturalisation, it said in a statement.

USCIS is dependent on fees from new immigration applications. The agency reported a 50 per cent drop in fees in June due to less immigration during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But immigration experts and former officials say even before the onset of the pandemic, the agency had seen revenues fall sharply as a result of slowdowns in processing and other limits placed on immigration applications.

Republican President Donald Trump has made curbing immigration a priority during his nearly 3.5 years in office.

USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow warned in the statement there was no guarantee the agency can avoid future furloughs and called on the US Congress to ensure that the agency had sufficient funding for fiscal year 2021, which starts in October.

USCIS had asked for a US$1.2 billion bailout from Congress in May to avoid the projected furloughs, but lawmakers pushed back, arguing that the agency had the funding it needed to continue operations through the fiscal year.

Source: Reuters/ec

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