Last Friday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a significantly revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This application is used to change or extend the status of dependents of individuals in H-1B, L-1, O-1, TN and several other statuses. With the introduction of this new form, all applicants submitting an I-539 will now be required to attend a biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center, to be scheduled after the filing. As of March 22, USCIS will accept the new Form I-539 only with an additional $85 biometrics fee.
In the past, I-539 extension and change of status applications, submitted concurrently with a principal petition using the Premium Processing service, would be adjudicated within the same 15-day time period as the principal petition. USCIS has advised that this will no longer be possible because of wait times associated with scheduling a biometrics appointment. Instead, I-539 applications will be adjudicated separately once review of the biometrics is complete.
We anticipate that Form I-539 processing times will lengthen considerably as a result of the new biometrics requirement. We therefore encourage you to notify your employees of this change so that they can discuss all available options with their family members. For example, some H-4, L-2 or O-3 applicants may elect to apply directly at a U.S. consulate for a renewed visa and re-enter in that status, rather than wait many months for their I-539 extension applications to be adjudicated.
If you have any questions or need additional information about this alert, please feel free to contact us.