Starting May 17, 2021, USCIS will temporarily suspend the in-person biometrics requirement for H-4, L-2, and E derivative nonimmigrants seeking extensions of stay and changes of status in the United States. The policy will remain in place through May 17, 2023, unless extended or revoked. During this time, applicant spouses and children filing Form I-539 for H-4; L-2; or E-1, E-2, or E-3 derivative status will not be required to attend a USCIS biometrics appointment for the capture of their fingerprints and photo.
The suspension applies to applicants in the above classifications if their I-539 applications are pending on May 17 and they have not yet received a biometric appointment notice, or if their application is postmarked or submitted electronically on or after May 17, 2021. However, USCIS reserves the right to require biometrics for these applicants on a case-by-case basis if it is deemed necessary. Applicants who receive a biometrics notice before May 17 should make sure to attend their scheduled appointment.
The suspension is intended to alleviate some of the lengthy processing backlogs facing I-539 applicants as well as corresponding I-765 work authorization applications for spousal EAD applicants, which currently stretch for several months or more.
Background on the policy change
USCIS began collecting biometrics from Form I-539 applicants in March 2019. Processing times increased for these applications and for corresponding Form I-765 applications for H-4, L-2, and E spousal work authorization. Delays were then exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and USCIS local office closures. Today’s policy change is the result of negotiations in a lawsuit challenging the lengthy processing delays affecting spousal work authorization applications (Edakunni, et al. v. Mayorkas). Starting May 17, I-539 applications will be adjudicated using biographic information and background checks, as was agency policy prior to March 2019.