Starting January 25, 2023, USCIS will adjudicate I-539 and I-765 applications for H-4 and L-2 dependents when those applications are filed concurrently with the I-129 petition. The bundling of those applications applies to both regular and premium processed H-1B or L-1 petitions.
USCIS will return to its historical process of adjudicating applications for H-4 and L-2 dependents when the Forms I-539 (application to change or extend status) and I-765 (employment authorization application) are filed concurrently with the H-1B or L-1 petition. In addition to L-2 or H-4 extensions, dependents seeking to change to H-4 or L-2 status using Form I-539 will also benefit from the bundled adjudication, provided that the Form I-129 is filed concurrently. The practice of bundled adjudications will be in effect for two years, effective January 25, 2023.
This shift in practice is the result of a settlement agreement in Edakunni v. Mayorkas, which challenged the lengthy adjudications for H-4 and L-2 dependents.
Under the Trump administration, USCIS implemented several changes – requiring biometrics appointments and de-coupling the adjudication of I-539 applications filed together with Form I-129 – that led to extensive processing times for H-4 and L-2 dependents. USCIS, under the Biden administration, has taken several steps to improve the processing time for dependent applications. On May 17, 2021, USCIS suspended the biometrics appointment requirement for those filing an I-539 requesting H-4, L-2, or E dependent nonimmigrant status. On November 10, 2021, USCIS reached a settlement agreement in Shergill v. Mayorkas that permits L and E spouses to work incident to status, and provides automatic extensions of employment authorization for certain I-765 renewal applications.
SWLG ANALYSIS. For all clients filing an H-4 or L-2 change of status and EAD application, your case will now be adjudicated concurrently with the principal’s I-129 (H-1b or L-1) case. This means that the spouse or dependents won’t need to wait long periods of time before their case is adjudicated. The biometrics requirement for these cases is also waived at this time so we would expect EAD and change/extension of stay (I-539) applications to be adjudicated at the same time or soon thereafter the underlying I-129 is adjudicated.