The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services doubled fees on most types of visas beginning in January 2023. These fees account for about 96% of the money needed to operate the agency in California and across the United States. Yet, Democratic lawmakers have written to Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, representatives asking that they significantly increase the agency’s budget to deal with the 8.6 million backlogged visa applications. They are hopeful that the increase in funding will also shorten immigrants’ waiting time, which increased by more than 50% from 2017 to 2020.
Causes of immigration backlog
According to officials with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, many factors have led to the backlog. Worldwide hikes in salaries have forced the agency to be able to hire fewer workers, including at embassies around the globe, where initial visa interviews often occur. Rules implemented worldwide also meant that many things required to process immigrants into the United States could not happen between 2019 and 2021. Additionally, the number of applicants hit a 15-year high in 2022.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services budget
The 2023 budget grew by $444.1 million over the 2022 budget. It includes $913.6 million to pay the equivalent of 3,014 full-time employees. Furthermore, the budget includes $5.1 billion for Immigration Examinations Fee Account, the H-1B Nonimmigrant Petitioner Account and the Fraud Prevention and Detection Account.
Some Democratic lawmakers have asked Congress to raise the amount of money received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services so that they can deal with the backlog of people wanting to come to the United States and reduce waiting times. The budget signed into law by President Biden on December 29, 2022, contained sizeable increases for the agency, but some lawmakers fear more funds are needed.