On Feb. 11, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced it will revise Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and publish a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Currently, Form I-539 is used by certain nonimmigrants extending their stay or changing to another nonimmigrant status; CNMI residents applying for an initial grant of status; F and M nonimmigrants applying for reinstatement; and persons seeking V nonimmigrant status or an extension of stay as a V nonimmigrant. Form I-539 is nine pages, including Supplement A, used to include spouses or unmarried children under 21 years of age as co-applicants.
- Revised Form I-539 will be published on the USCIS website on March 11, 2019, and that will be its effective date. Historically, prior Form revisions have been accompanied by a grace period where USCIS would continue to accept older editions of the Forms for a set period of time for implementation. In its announcement, however, the USCIS indicated that as of March 11, 2019, it will only accept a form with an edition date of 02/04/19; it will reject any Form I-539 with an edition date of 12/23/16 or earlier.
- Form I-539A will also be published on USCIS website on March 11, 2019. The form will replace Supplement A to Form I-539. Co-applicants must submit and sign separate Forms I-539A, one for every co-applicant.
- Regardless of the age, every applicant and co-applicant must pay a biometrics fee of $85 and will be scheduled for a biometric services appointment. Biometrics are collected at Application Support Centers (ASCs) and generally include digital fingerprints, photographs, and/or signatures. Pursuant to 8 CFR 103.2 (b)(9), USCIS has the general authority to require and collect biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, and/or digital signature) from any applicant, petitioner, sponsor, beneficiary, or other individual residing in the United States seeking immigration and naturalization benefits. This authority has been used primarily for immigrant visa and naturalization applications to allow USCIS to run required background and security checks, and not for nonimmigrant applications.
This unexpected announcement will lead to even longer USCIS processing times for nonimmigrant visa applications (currently taking six to nine months), additional processing fees, and further strain on local ASCs. Finally, given the timing and lack of grace period, this change will impact dependents of some of the H-1B FY2020 Cap Subject beneficiaries and their filings this year.