U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on

February 11, 2019, that it has revised Form I-539, Application to

Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and is introducing a new Form

I-539A. The revised and new forms will be required for filings on

and after March 11, 2019.

Form I-539 is used for a variety of application types,

including:

  • Certain nonimmigrant applications for

    an extension of stay

  • Certain nonimmigrant applications for

    a change of status

  • Reinstatement for F-1 and M-1

    students

Based on prior drafts of the form and its information collection

review, it appears that USCIS has expanded the scope of information

to be gathered and will change the filing and adjudication

requirements significantly. Below are highlights:

Biometrics and personal appearance requirement. The first major

change involves in-person collection of biometrics (fingerprints,

photograph, and signature). Generally, biometrics have only been

collected for permanent status applications, and not for the

temporary status applications processed on Form I-539. As of March

11, 2019, all new I-539 and I-539A (more about the I-539A below)

applicants must be photographed and fingerprinted at the nearest

USCIS Application Support Center (ASC). After filing, every

applicant and co-applicant, regardless of age, will receive a

biometric services appointment notice in the mail.

New Form I-539A created for co-applicants. The second major

change is the procedure to be followed when there are multiple

people filing together, such as a parent (“primary

applicant”) and one or more children

(“co-applicants”). Currently, the primary applicant

completes and signs the I-539 and identifies each co-applicant on

the form's Supplement A. The form only requires the signature

of the primary applicant and there is one filing fee (currently

$370).

Starting March 11, a newly created form, the I-539A, must be

completed for each individual co-applicant and submitted with the

primary applicant's I-539. Each co-applicant must sign his or

her respective I-539A. (Parents can continue to sign the forms for

children under 14 years of age.)

Fee increase for biometrics. Because biometrics will be

collected with the application, an additional $85 biometrics fee

will be charged per I-539 and I-539A applicant. A typical family

consisting of an H-4 spouse and two minor H-4 children will have to

pay $625 ($370 filing fee plus three $85 biometrics fees) to extend

nonimmigrant status.

(Certain nonimmigrant applications already require biometrics

and payment of the fee when filing the I-539, i.e., V nonimmigrants

and CNMI applications. Those procedures and costs will remain

unchanged.)

Premium processing. USCIS did not address premium processing

with respect to the agency's proposed handling of I-539/I-539A

applications accompanying principal applications (such as

H-4 applications filed with a premium-processed H-1B petition). In

the past, the USCIS generally processed such dependent I-539

applications on an expedited basis so the family members'

status would be adjudicated and updated together. The new

biometrics requirement likely will mean that dependent I-539 and

I-539A applications will no longer be moved along in lockstep with

a principal's premium-processed nonimmigrant petition.

Identifying the form edition. How can you tell which form you

have? The form edition information is in the bottom left corner of

the form. The current edition of the I-539 available on the USCIS

website is the 12/23/16 edition. This is identified by the

following notation in the bottom left corner of each page of the

form: “Form I-539 12/23/16 N.”

The new edition of the I-539, the new I-539A, and their

respective instructions will be identified by “02/04/19”

in the bottom left corner of each page.

Effective date: March 11, 2019. Applicants must use the 02/04/19

edition of the I-539 and must begin using the I-539A for

co-applicants on March 11, 2019, although the agency currently

states that it will not release the form to the public until that

date. It is hoped that USCIS might delay the effective date to

avoid the disruption that would result from such an accelerated

implementation date.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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