The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the temporary suspension of the biometrics requirement for Form I-539 applicants seeking an extension or change of status in the H-4, L-2 and E dependent categories will be extended until September 30, 2023. This suspension was due to expire on May 17, 2023.
The USCIS will adjudicate I-539 applications for H-4, L-2, and E dependent status without requiring applicants to visit an Application Support Center to have their biometrics (i.e., photographs and fingerprints) captured. USCIS does note, however, that the agency retains the discretion to require biometrics collection on a case-by-case basis. The $85 fee for biometrics services is not required with an I-539 application for these classifications, and USCIS notes that any I-539 application that includes the filing fee of $370 and the $85 fee in a single payment will be rejected.
The USCIS also indicated that the agency still plans to make the biometrics exemption permanent “in the coming months” for all I-539 applicants.
The extension of the suspension of the biometrics requirement for certain I-539 applicants, as well as the anticipated permanent biometrics exemption for all I-539 applicants, are obviously positive developments. The biometrics requirement for I-539 applicants has served little practical purpose and its introduction in March 2019 reflected the concerns of the previous presidential administration rather than any carefully considered policy initiative.
We will continue to monitor this situation and will send a further Alert when the suspension of the biometrics requirement for I-539 applicants is made permanent.