USCIS is expected to publish a new version of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status on March 11, 2019. Starting on March 11, 2019, USCIS will only accept the new version of the form.

The revised Form I-539 includes the following significant changes:

  • Signature Required for Every Co-Applicant – Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 11, 2019. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or for any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • New Biometrics Fee for Every Applicant and Co-Applicant – Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an additional $85 biometric services fee (Regardless of Age), except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 11, 2019.
  • New Biometrics Requirement – Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

Anticipated Impact on Premium Processing

As a courtesy, USCIS has traditionally processed Form I-539 Applications to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and Form I-765 Applications for Employment Authorization on an expedited basis, when filed concurrently with a Premium Processed Form I-129 Nonimmigrant Petition. However, because USCIS will be implementing a biometrics requirement (effective March 11, 2019), it is anticipated that USCIS’ Premium Processing Unit will no longer be able to process the Form I-539/Form I-765 concurrently with the underlying Form I-129.

Under current USCIS policy, spouses of H-1B, L-1, and E visa holders are not granted an automatic extension of an expiring EAD upon the filing of an EAD renewal. Spouses must present a new EAD card in order to continue working after their previous card expires. The new policy changes may cause an interruption of work authorization for many spouses who are not able to have their nonimmigrant status and EAD Cards extended at the same time as a principal applicant.

It is recommended that H-1B workers whose status will expire prior to September 6, 2019 and have a spouse with an EAD should consider filing an extension as soon as possible. Assuming that there have been no changes to the principal applicant’s employment, it may be possible to premium process the H-1B extension and potentially take advantage of courtesy expedited processing of the H-4/EAD extension and courtesy waiver of H-4 legal fees, when filed concurrently.