The report partly attributes the agency’s financial woes to the coronavirus pandemic, which forced USCIS to shutter its offices for several months last year before resuming operations at a reduced capacity. As a result, processing times for visa applications and renewals have stretched months, leaving many foreign citizens working in the U.S. with gaps in work authorization.
In October, Congress authorized the agency, which is primarily funded by application fees, to expand premium processing services to additional benefits. USCIS has started this expansion, which allows applicants to pay higher fees for faster adjudication, and plans to make the service available for additional benefits later this year.
However, premium processing is “labor-intensive,” and with the agency understaffed, it could cause even longer wait times for applications in regular processing, the report said.
Ur Jaddou, President Joe Biden’s pick to lead USCIS, told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing earlier this year that tackling processing delays would be her “top priority.”
She also pledged to resolve the agency’s financial situation, saying one of her “most immediate responsibilities, if confirmed, will be to return the agency to firm solvency.”