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U.S. immigration agency raises fees and seeks aid as virus hits revenue

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 it had 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 virus crisis.

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

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

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

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