In a move aimed at speeding the processing of certain non-immigrant petitions, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced it will suspend the biometrics requirements for certain I-539 applicants for a two-year period beginning on May 17, 2021. Form I-539 is used to change to or extend the authorized stay of non-immigrants holding (or seeking) A, B, F, G, I, J, M, T, U and V and dependents of those holding E, H, L, O, P, R and TN status.
The USCIS has required those submitting Forms I-539 and I-539A to 1) submit an $85 biometrics fee; and 2) provide their biometrics as part of their application process since March 2019.
The USCIS’ announcement stated the suspension will apply to those applicants in the H-4, L-2 and dependents in the E-1, E-2, and E-3 categories if they are 1) pending on May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice; and 2) are new applications received by USCIS from May 17, 2021, through May 23, 2022.
The biometrics collection process requires applicants to appear in person, once scheduled by USCIS, to have their photo and fingerprints captured at Application Support Centers (ASCs). Many of these were closed in the early days of the COVID pandemic and current capacity restrictions have exacerbated these backlogs.
The USCIS published this change in policy in a filing in Federal Court in Seattle in theEdakunni v. Mayorkasclass-action lawsuit challenging H-4 and L-2 adjudication delays.
The biometric requirement for I-539 applicants was first implemented on March 11, 2019, and has caused significant backlogs and delays in USCIS’ processing of I-539 applications. As an example, Dykema recently obtained approval of an H-4 application (and an accompanying I-765 employment authorization petition) that had been pending for more than one year.
These delays have caused many non-immigrants to lose their ability to work legally in the United States.
Suspension of the biometrics requirement should speed up the processing of currently pending I-539 applications, as well as new applications filed before May 23, 2022. Because certain I-539 applicants for H-4 and L-2 status can concurrently file EAD work authorization applications, the suspension of biometrics should also result in faster processing of their EAD work authorization.
The USCIS has stated it will issue guidance soon regarding the details of the biometrics suspension and biometrics fee.
For more information about this and other immigration issues, please contact the author of this alert, James G. Aldrich, Jr., at [email protected] or 248-203-0583, or your Dykema relationship attorney.