Temporary Suspension of Biometrics Requirement for Certain Form I-539 Applicants

A relaxation in requirements was issued today by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the form of biometrics suspension for certain form I-539 applicants. In recent days, applicants who want to extend or change to H-4, L-2, E nonimmigrant status received much-delayed adjudication due to the suspension of the biometrics appointment schedule.

USCIS had previously declared that, to open a case file, applicants needed to provide their biometrics at a local Application Support Center (ASC), starting in March, 2019. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, USCIS temporarily suspended interviews at ASC. This created a backlog of pending cases waiting for a biometrics appointment. In some cases, the waiting period was more than a year to adjudicate the I-539 petition. This impacted Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applicants who filed a I-765 and intend to file and wait for I-539 status.                  

In December, 2020, USCIS issued a press release stating they can only process 10,400 biometrics per day. To clear the backlog will take more than 100 days.

This impacted overall processing of H-4, L-2, H4 EAD, and E nonimmigrants. It especially impacted those who depend on H4 EAD looking for employment opportunities under this category, who have suffered notably.

USCIS just released information that they are going to suspend the biometrics requirement for form I-539 applicants, effective May 17, 2021. This suspension will remain in place through May 17, 2023. Therefore, those who are planning to file a form I-539 application to extend/change nonimmigrant status, request an extension of stay, or change of status to H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrant status will not need to consider the biometrics procedure during this time period.

USCIS mentioned that, in order to adjudicate the abovementioned petition, they will consider biographical information and related background checks, without capturing fingerprints and photographs.

This temporary biometrics suspension will apply only for the below requests:

  • Extension of stay, or change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status
  • Extension of stay, or change of status to L-2 nonimmigrant status
  • Extension of stay, or change of status to E-1 nonimmigrant status
  • Extension of stay, or change of status to E-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)
  • Extension of stay, or change of status to E-3 nonimmigrant status (including those selecting E-3D)

This temporary biometrics suspension will be applicable for:

  • Applications pending as of May 17, 2021 where the applicant has not yet received a biometric services appointment notice.
  • New applications postmarked or submitted electronically on or after May 17, 2021.

Scheduled Biometrics Appointments:

If form I-539 applicants have already received an appointment notice, they should appear at ASC for biometrics at the scheduled date and time.

Biometrics Fees:

  • Effective May 17, 2021, those who are going to file form I-539 do not need to include the biometrics service fee of $85.
  • USCIS is providing a short grace period for biometrics service fees. If you include the fees for biometrics, those fees will be refunded and USCIS will not reject the petition.  
  • If you file a petition postmarked May 27, 2021 or later that includes biometrics service fees, USCIS will reject the form and require you to file another petition without biometrics service fees.

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