The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will implement a revised edition of Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status beginning on March 11, 2019.

The revised Form I-539 will require the following:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions.
  • 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.

Additionally, beginning on March 11, 2019, USCIS will no longer accepted any previous editions of Form I-539.

Who is affected by these changes?

The following nonimmigrant categories are a few of the most relevant categories related to our office that will be required to use the revised Form I-539 and undergo biometrics when seeking a change or extension of status:

  • Spouses and children of H-1B, L-1, and other employment-based nonimmigrant beneficiaries.
  • B-1/B-2 business visitors.
  • F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors, but only for certain changes and extensions of status.

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

Potential impact of these changes

The timing of the release of this revised edition of the Form I-539 means that these changes will impact the fiscal year 2020 H-1B cap season as dependent family members of H-1B cap petition beneficiaries will need to submit the new Form I-539 and follow the new biometric procedures when the cap season opens on April 1, 2019.

The revised edition of Form I-539 is not publicly available at this time and is not expected to be available until March 11, 2019, the day that the new procedures go into effect. What this means is that there will be a limited time to prepare H-4 change of status applications for H-1B dependent family members before the H-1B cap season begins.

Additionally, due to the requirements for biometrics, processing times for changes or extensions of status may be longer than usual.

Our office will keep you updated about any new developments regarding this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.