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USCIS Introduces Huge Changes To Form I-539

statue-of-liberty-1210001_640-300x200U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has updated the forms used for the extension or change of status for H-4 and L-2 dependents, which will apply to applications filed on March 11, 2019 and afterwards. The agency has so far provided no grace period for the continued use of the now-obsolete versions of the immigration forms, with no preview of the new versions available to the public.

Beginning next month, USCIS will require the use of a new version of the Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) for applications requiring the form. The agency said it has also updated Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

The updated forms come with a number of significant changes to the application process. Specifically, applicants and co-applicants now have to attend a biometric services appointment for fingerprint taking at a scheduled date at the Application Support Center (ASC) located nearest to the applicant’s address.

This part of the application process should set applicants back $85 for the service fee on top of the current USCIS filing fee of $370. Additionally, whereas the current system only requires the primary applicant to sign Form I-539, co-applicants now have to sign a separate Form I-539A, which parents or guardians may fulfill and sign on behalf of dependents under the age of 14 or those otherwise mentally incapable of doing so for themselves.

Under current policy, USCIS’s practice is to approve H-4 or L-2 status applications simultaneously with premium processing for H-1B or L-1. The agency has also had a habit of adjudicating and approving Forms I-539 and I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, simultaneously when these are filed together.

However, the introduction of revisions to the application process poses a potential setback to processing timelines for status extension applications. USCIS has made no explanation as to how the completion of biometrics stands to affect processing for H-4 and L-2, but it is expected that the requirement of biometric data will significantly delay the application process.

The significant delay to the processing of I-539 resultant of the biometrics requirement may result in its separate adjudication from the I-129. This will likely cause some misalignment to immigration status approvals for members of a family unit.

It is also expected that the new requirement, along with the hindrances inherent in adjusting to new processes, may cause some delay between the approval of an employee’s H-1B of L-1 and the approval of H-4 or L-2 dependents, especially where premium processing is applied.

USCIS will no longer be accepting the old versions of the above forms or any submission lacking the signatures of each applicant by March 11, 2019.

If you want to learn more about the H- and L- visa programs and the necessary forms for these, or need assistance on applying for a nonimmigrant status, the Lyttle Law Firm is ready to help. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle for a full review of your credentials.