The Trump administration’s hardline stance on immigration has dramatically reduced the number of people seeking permission to live and work in this country. As a result, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the federal agency that handles visa applications, has fallen on hard financial times.

Now, USCIS is asking Congress for permission to raise the cost of applying for a visa by 10%. For people seeking non-immigrant and immigrant visas for themselves, their families or employees, this could complicate things, if Congress approves. Maybe even more serious is the possibility that USCIS will largely suspend its services within months if it cannot make up its budget shortfall.

Where the budget money went

USCIS makes most of its budget from visa application fees. With immigration bans and other anti-immigration policies in place, the number of applications dropped by almost 900,000 from 2017 to 2019. Since the coronavirus pandemic reached the U.S., the White House has proposed several new immigration restrictions and hinted at others. These would further reduce the number of visa applications.

Along with the proposed 10% surcharge, USCIS is asking Congress for $1.2 billion in extra funding so it can continue to serve visa applicants.

The impact on your immigration application

As Georgia and other states slowly reopen, immigration law matters will begin ramping up again. However, delays are likely, and extra costs are possible. This does not mean you should give up your dream of coming to the U.S. to work, study, or reunite with your family. It simply means that things could take a little longer than it used to.

It also means that retaining a skilled immigration attorney who keeps up with changes in the law is more important than ever.