In March of 2019, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) unveiled an updated Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539). The new Form I-539 contains some fairly major changes you should be aware of.
Form I-539 affects dependents of individuals in H-1B, L-1, O-1, or TN status, as well as many other statuses. Here’s what you need to know about the new form, and how it could affect you and your family.
The revisions to form I-539 are significant, such that as of March 21, 2019, USCIS stopped accepting any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/31/16 or earlier. As of now, only the revised form with the edition date of 2/4/19 will be accepted.
What are some of the changes to the form? First, each co-applicant who is included on the I-539 form for the primary applicant must complete and submit a separate Form I-539A (Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status). If a co-applicant is under the age of 14 or is not mentally competent to sign, a parent or guardian may sign on the co-applicant’s behalf.
Perhaps the most significant change is that all applicants and co-applicants for extension or change of nonimmigrant status will be given a biometric services appointment notice. This includes children and adults. The notice will contain the individual receipt number of the applicant or co-applicant.
The biometric services appointments will be scheduled to take place at the Application Support Center (ASC) that is nearest the address of the primary applicant. If, for some reason, a co-applicant wants an appointment at a different ASC location, he or she must file a separate Form I-539. Except as indicated in the instructions for the new Form I-539, all applicants and co-applicants must pay an $85 biometric services fee. The biometrics fees for all applicants and co-applicants can be submitted together in a single check or money order.
What should you expect at your biometric services appointment? Your experience will likely include having your photograph taken, getting fingerprinted, and perhaps doing an electronic capture of your fingerprints. The appointment itself will probably take around 20 minutes, but since many people are given the same appointment time and people are seen on a first-come, first-served basis, you may have a wait that exceeds the time of your appointment.
Previously, it was possible to submit an I-539 application concurrently with a principal petition using the Premium Processing service; these documents would be considered and decided within the same 15-day period as the principal petition. Because of the extensive wait times connected to the scheduling of biometrics appointments, I-539 applications will be adjudicated only after conclusion of review of the biometrics.
Also in the past, it was possible for Employment Authorization Cards for eligible individuals to be adjudicated along with the primary application. This will no longer be an option.
The new requirement for biometrics appointments will almost certainly lengthen the times for processing Form I-539. Other options may be available to individuals in certain statuses. For instance, it may be possible for O-3, H-4, or L-2 applicants to directly apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate as an alternative to a lengthy wait for their I-539 extension of status applications to be considered.
If you need to submit a Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, you will need to plan ahead for the extended processing time. In addition, the time necessary to travel to an Application Support Center may be an inconvenience. There are three ASCs in Maryland, in addition to three others in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware that serve Maryland.
The revisions to Form I-539 could result in unwary applicants having difficulty extending their status if they fail to comply with the new requirements. If you have questions about the changes to Form I-539 or the associated forms or fees, we invite you to contact our law office.
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