Filing Form I-539? You May Not Need to Submit Your Biometrics Yet

Ongoing modernization attempts are an essential part of keeping the borders safe worldwide, and USCIS regularly makes changes in support of this goal. One of the more recent adaptations is the policy of required biometrics submissions. Applicants requesting entry to the US through most avenues must complete a biometric screening as part of their approval process. But certain applicants fall under a temporary suspension of this requirement. If you’re a nonimmigrant filing Form I-539, you may not need to complete the screening before your petition is approved. We have the details here.

The Initial Temporary Suspension of Biometric Submissions

On May 17, 2021, USCIS enacted a temporary suspension of biometric submissions for those filing the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, Form I-539. If the applicant is requesting a stay-in or change of status to an E, H-4, or L-2 nonimmigrant status, they are not required to complete the biometrics portion of the process. This was originally in place through May 27, 2023, but was recently extended through September 30, 2023.

The suspension included automatic adjudication for those categories to move forward, provided the applicant included the essential biographic information and all background checks were cleared. The suspension is subject to an affirmative extension or revocation by the director of USCIS as applicable.

Who is Covered Under This Suspension?

Form I-539 is a widely used document for various visa categories. However, the biometrics suspension only applies to certain categories. If you fall under one of the following areas, you do not need to submit the biometrics portion of your application so long as you file before the extended deadline:

●     You need an extension of stay in or change of status to L-2 nonimmigrant status;

●     You need an extension of stay in or change of status to E-1 nonimmigrant status;

●     You need an extension of stay in or change of status to E-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)); 

●     You need an extension of stay-in or change of status to E-3 nonimmigrant status (including those selecting E-3D); or

●     You need an extension of stay-in or change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status.

Please note the timeframes for these suspensions. If your application remains pending as of May 17, 2021, and you haven’t received a biometrics appointment yet, or your application was submitted or postmarked on or after that date, you qualify for this suspension.

Keep in mind that all decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. USCIS has the authority to require biometrics for anyone, including those who meet the suspension criteria. If you’ve already received a biometrics services appointment, you aren’t eligible for the suspension and should attend.

What’s Next?

Just like with the changes in biometric screening requirements, rules and regulations in the immigration world are always changing. Many of these adjustments are in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and USCIS continues to attempt to catch up from those delays. This is particularly true when it comes to the pending Form I-539 cases awaiting biometric appointments.

You don’t want your visa application to sit on hold because you weren’t aware of a change in policy that concerns you, which is why it’s wise to retain legal counsel at every stage of your visa application. Our immigration experts at Visa2US are skilled and experienced in all H-1B visa matters, and we stay up-to-date with changes in policies and legislation.

Contact our office any time, day or night, to see how we can help you maximize your chances of obtaining a successful H-1B visa and give you the legal document you need to take your career to the next level.

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