USCIS Announces Two Year Suspension of Biometric Screening Requirement for H-4, L-2 and E visa holders

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be suspending biometric screening requirements for H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 dependent visa holders for two years beginning May 17, 2021. This suspension will automatically expire May 17, 2023, subject to affirmative extension or revocation by the USCIS Director. The suspension will apply to Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status applications that are pending on the effective date of the policy and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice. It will also apply to newly filed applications received by USCIS after the effective date of the policy through the expiration date.

The biometric requirement for I-539s took effect on March 11, 2019, and has caused historically lengthy delays in processing I-539 applications. COVID related closures and capacity limitations of Application Support Centers, where biometrics are taken, have created an unprecedented backlog of cases awaiting biometrics appointments. The biometrics appointment delays for Form I-539 have in turn resulted in adjudication delays for the related Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. In many circumstances I-765 applications cannot be approved until after the I-539 application is approved and the underlying H-4, L-2 or E nonimmigrant status is granted or extended.

This action comes a result of a class action lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Seattle, which claimed that the Agency’s processing times of Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization was impermissibly long and resulted in loss of employment due to extended gaps in employment authorization.

USCIS will still retain discretion to require biometrics on a case-by-case basis, and any applicant may be scheduled for an ASC appointment and be required to submit biometrics for identity verification and other screening purposes.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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