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USCIS Announces Revised I-539 form with Significantly Expanded Data Collection

US Citizenship and immigration Services has released a new version of the I-539 form. This form, used for extensions or changes of status to several visas (B-1/B-2 visitor, F-1 Student, and J-1 Exchange Visitor among others) as well as extensions or changes of status to many dependent visas (H-4s under H-1Bs and L-2s under L-1s to name a few) has traditionally been a somewhat brief form collecting more basic information. It allowed additional applicants (for instance, dependent children) to be added fairly simply without

The new form dramatically increases the information collected. Moreover, it now requires biometrics from each applicant (along with the $85 fee for it) and individual signatures for each applicant on a new supplementary form I-539A (though a parent still may sign). Biometrics will be completed regardless of age, with the only exceptions to this new requirement being nonimmigrants in certain A, G, and NATO classifications.

The biometrics requirement is bound to significantly slow processing - especially for dependent cases joint to I-129s for work visas which permit premium processing. USCIS has always taken the position that Premium Processing is for the I-129 petition itself, and an accompanying I-539 isn’t necessary entitled to the faster turnaround. As the biometrics requirement – something not applicable to a principal nonimmigrant work visa holder – will take some time, the effect is that family members will need to wait far longer for approvals.

Often, the best option for family members may be to go abroad to obtain stamps for derivative visas at consulates – but this may not be feasible as a complete alternative if the principal case isn’t approved before an upcoming expiration date.