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Biometrics Now Required for Certain Foreign Nationals Seeking a Change or Extension of Nonimmigrant Status

By February 14, 2019March 31st, 2021Immigration, News

On March 11, USCIS will introduce a new Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This revised version of the form will be implemented immediately upon release and no older versions of the form will be accepted. If you are in the United States and decide you want to stay for a longer time than you were given when you entered, you can apply to extend your status by filing an Application to Extend Nonimmigrant Status with the USCIS. To learn more about filing extensions, please click here.

Form I-539 is primarily used for dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders, including the following:

  • Spouses and children of H-1B, L-1, E visa and other principal employment-based nonimmigrant beneficiaries;
  • B-1/B-2 business visitors;
  • F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors, for certain changes and extensions of status (but not changes of status to H-1B, L-1 or another employer-sponsored nonimmigrant category).

There are two significant changes to the revised form:

  • Applicants are now required to appear in person to have their biometrics taken (fingerprints, photo, and digital signature), regardless of age. The biometrics fee is $85 per each applicant.
  • All applicants are now required to sign the application form, including parents and guardians signing for children under the age of 14. Previously, only principal applicants were required to sign.

Biometrics appointments are held in an applicant’s local USCIS field offices during normal work hours. Applicants will have to complete a biometrics appointment before their applications can be approved. Biometrics appointments can be rescheduled, but it’s highly recommended that you attend the one originally assigned. Rescheduling biometrics appointments require a reasonable explanation, USCIS approval, and more wait time.

This change will cause delays across the board for many applicants. Not only will the application for extension take longer to be processed, H-4, L-2, and E visa spouses who have applied for a work permit along with the extensions should also expect longer wait times for the work permit. Immigrant visa applicants, who have always been required to complete a biometrics appointment, should also expect longer wait times for their appointment caused by the significant increase in workload.

Potential Impact on H-1B Cap Filing Season

This revised form will not be released to the public until March 11 at which point all previous versions of the form will no longer be accepted. Applicants for H-4 spousal visa status will be expected to use this new form when the cap season begins on April 1, 2019. Keeping in mind that original copies of these forms will have to be submitted to USCIS and mailing the original copies can take time, this leaves short amount of time to prepare and complete the forms that will have to be filed immediately at the start of cap season. The business immigration community is working to make USCIS aware of the time issues, however at present, the revised forms are still slated to be implemented immediately upon release on March 11.

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