Effective May 17, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expected to remove biometrics requirements for certain dependent applicants filing Form I-539 including H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2 and E-3.
In various applications, petitions and requests, USCIS requires applicants to visit their local Application Support Center (ASC) to attend a biometrics appointment and to provide fingerprints, photograph and/or signature. In March 2019, USCIS implemented a requirement for all individuals submitting Form I-539 to complete biometrics, which includes dependent spouses and children of H-1B, L-1 and E statuses.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted USCIS' ability to provide the in-person biometrics service in a timely manner and as such, the agency is experiencing a substantial processing backlog of dependent H-4, L-2, E cases. The backlog also impacts any related Form I-765 Employment Authorization applications, as the I-765 cannot be approved until the underlying nonimmigrant status is granted. A class action lawsuit was filed against USCIS challenging the long processing delays.
Expected to begin on May 17, 2021, the new policy will suspend biometrics requirements for H-4, L-2 and E nonimmigrants filing Form I-539 and is intended to be in effect for two years. The change is expected to apply to applications that are pending on May 17 that have not yet received a biometrics appointment notice and new applications received for the two-year period.
By suspending biometrics requirements for the aforementioned categories, USCIS will shorten application processing times and reduce adjudication delays for Form I-539 and related Form I-765, Employment Authorization applications.
USCIS is expected to publish further guidance on the biometrics suspension in the coming days. Envoy Global and Global Immigration Associates (GIA) are monitoring this story and will provide updates as soon as possible. Please direct any circumstance-specific questions to your legal counsel.
Originally published 6, May 2021
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