U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has extended the temporary suspension of the biometrics submission requirement for certain applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, or E nonimmigrant status. The previously announced suspension, which was initially in place until May 17, 2023, has been extended through Sept. 30, 2023.
“We will allow adjudications for those specific categories to proceed based on biographic information and related background checks, without capturing fingerprints and a photograph,” the agency said in a statement. “However, we retain discretion, on a case-by-case basis, to require biometrics for any applicant, and applicants may be scheduled for an application support center appointment to submit biometrics.”
As a reminder, if you are a Form I-539 applicant meeting the biometrics suspension criteria, you do not need to submit the $85 biometric services fee for Form I-539 during the suspension period. They will return a biometric services fee if submitted separately from the base fee and will reject paper Form I-539 applications if you meet the above criteria and submit a single payment covering both the filing fee and the $85 biometrics services fee. If they reject the paper application because you included the $85 biometrics service fee, you will need to re-file Form I-539 without the biometric services fee.
As mentioned in the USCIS Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report, they plan on establishing a permanent biometrics exemption for all Form I-539 applicants in the coming months.
In the months ahead, USCIS plans to build on its FY 2022 progress by implementing premium processing for all petitions for immigrant workers (Form I-140) and certain employment authorization applications (Form I-765) for students and exchange visitors; establishing a permanent biometrics exemption for all applicants for change of nonimmigrant status and extension of nonimmigrant stay (Form I-539); and simplifying several common forms, including the applications for employment authorization (Form I-765), adjustment of status (Form I-485), and naturalization (Form N-400).
This progress on both backlog reduction and humanitarian services was supported by crucial appropriations by Congress in FY 2022. Going forward, USCIS will require continued congressional support to help eliminate its current net backlogs and meet its humanitarian mission, and plans to pursue a new fee rule to prevent the accumulation of new backlogs in the future.
USCIS will continue to expand its robust public engagement on humanitarian immigration programs as well as explore policy and operational measures to improve processing times for humanitarian benefits.