Revisions to Form 1-539, used by certain nonimmigrants seeking to extend their stay or change to another nonimmigrant category, include additional signatures and fees as well as a required biometrics services appointment. The new form will not be available until March 11, and as of that date US Citizenship and Immigration Services will reject any submissions using previous versions of the form.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that beginning on March 11, 2019, it will require certain nonimmigrants—including H-4 and L-2 dependents—seeking to extend their stay in the United States or to change to another nonimmigrant category to use a revised edition of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The form, which will not be made available to the public until March 11, includes several significant changes, such as the introduction of a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and a requirement that applicants attend a biometrics appointment before an extension or change of status may be granted. With no grace period, the new Form I-539 has a mandatory effective date of March 11, 2019—beginning that day, USCIS will accept only the revised edition, and will reject any submissions that contain earlier versions of the form.

As USCIS will not publish the new I-539 form on its website until the day it is made mandatory (and has made no preview of the new version available), it is crucial that Form I-539 applicants and their families be apprised of the changes and how they will be impacted by the new processes.

Implications of the Revision

The revised form and its submission process differ from prior editions and processes in a few key ways, most significantly with the requirement of additional signatures and fees:

  • Every co-applicant (spouse and/or unmarried minor child) included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A (previously, only the primary applicant’s signature was required).
  • In addition to the form filing fee itself, every applicant and co-applicant (with the exception of certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants) must pay an $85 biometric services fee.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must attend a biometric services appointment; this includes children, regardless of age. Biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center closest to the primary applicant’s address; co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different location should file separate Forms I-539.

USCIS notes that the agency will reject any Form I-539 that is missing any of the required signatures or biometrics fees, including those required for Form I-539A.

What This Means for Form I-539 Applicants and Their Families

In addition to the new signature, fee, and biometrics requirements, Form I-539 applicants should expect this revision to extend processing timelines due to the required completion of biometrics appointments. Such delays may result in lag time between a principal’s H-1B or L-1 petition approval and the approval of the applications of H-4 or L-2 dependents, especially when premium processing is used. Additionally, given that March 11, 2019 (the date of the form’s release and implementation) coincides with the height of the H-1B FY2020 cap season, the change will impact dependents of some of this year’s cap-subject beneficiaries and their filings.

Several organizations have raised concerns about the rollout process for the new forms, requesting a delayed effective date and the implementation of a grace period.