A revised version of Form I-539 that includes a biometrics requirement will be published on March 11, 2019. Use of the new form will be mandatory as of that day, USCIS announced February 11, 2019.
Form I-539 is used to extend or change nonimmigrant status for people in categories such as B-1, F-1, H-4, L-2 and TD. This form is often filed by dependents with a primary beneficiary’s application for H-1B, L-1 or TN status.
A few things to note about the new form:
Starting on March 11, 2019, USCIS will only accept the revised version of the form. Note that the form will not be available until that day.
A new I-539A will replace the current Supplemental form. Every co-applicant (usually children) will need to submit and sign a separate I-539A. Parents can continue to sign on behalf of children under 14 years of age.
Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric fee, and each applicant (regardless of age) will be required to attend a biometric appointment.
These changes are significant and will likely result in additional processing delays. For primary cases eligible for premium processing (such as H-1B, L-1, etc.), USCIS often adjudicated the dependent I-539 with the primary petition as a courtesy.
Adding the biometrics requirement will make this impossible, subjecting H-4, L-2 and other dependents to long delays. Employment Authorization Cards for those eligible were also often adjudicated with the primary application. This will also no longer be possible.
As we approach the fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap filing date, H-1B candidates and their dependents will want to consider filing their H-1B cap petition with a request for consular notification to avoid the biometrics requirement and the possible delays that may result from this new policy.
Additional information will be available on the USCIS website on March 11, 2019.