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As mentioned in a previous article, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a revised version of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status as well as a new Form I-539A Supplement. These new forms will become mandatory starting March 22, 2019.

The revised Form I-539 requires the following:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign. The new form permits submission of a scanned or photocopied signature, but only if derived from a form signed with an original “wet” signature.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions.
  • Applicants ages 14 and older will be subject to a law enforcement background check as part of the biometrics process.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

Who is affected by these changes?

The following nonimmigrant categories are a few of the most relevant categories related to our office that will be required to use the revised Form I-539 and undergo biometrics when seeking a change or extension of status:

  • Spouses and children of H-1B, L-1, E, O, and other employment-based nonimmigrant beneficiaries.
  • B-1/B-2 business visitors.
  • F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors, but only for certain changes and extensions of status.

Importantly, dependents of H-1B cap beneficiaries requesting a change of status to H-4 in the upcoming FY 2020 cap season will be required to submit this new version of Form I-539 and comply with the new biometrics requirements.

Potential impact of these changes

Due to the requirements for biometrics, processing times for changes or extensions of status may be longer than usual. Likewise, courtesy expedited processing will no longer be granted to Forms I-539 filed concurrently with employment-based Form I-129 petitions that are filed with premium processing. Instead, dependent applications will be adjudicated after the principal beneficiary’s petition.

USCIS has announced that it will accept the previous version of Form I-539 until the close of the business day on March 21, 2019.

If you have any questions about this matter, please do not hesitate to contact our office.