On September 25, 2023 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the biometrics services fee for Form I-539 – Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status is exempt for forms filed from October 1 2023 onwards.
A biometrics appointment, completed ahead of application adjudication within the US or abroad for specific visa types, is a background and security check completed by the US government to confirm any criminal or immigration violations. The process within the US involves digital fingerprinting at a scheduled appointment at a Support Center local to the applicant.
The process outside the US involves digital fingerprinting ahead of the application interview at the US Embassy or Consulate. USCIS began collecting I-539 applicant biometrics in 2019. During the COVID-19 pandemic, USCIS temporarily suspended the biometric submission requirement for certain applicants of I-539s and allowed adjudication based on biographic information, related background checks and without fingerprinting. The suspension was originally extended through September 30 2023.
From 1st October 2023 applicants are not required to pay the $85 biometrics services fee with I-539 applications. This includes all applicants for I-539s including H-4, L-2, or E non-immigrants. In most cases the applicant will not need to attend a biometrics service appointment unless USCIS determines it is required, at which point the applicant will receive notice from USCIS of a scheduled appointment. Applicants are encouraged to ensure payments for applications are made correctly from October 1 onwards. Where an applicant mistakenly submits the $85 fee in a separate payment method, the fee will be returned and application processing will continue. However, if it is combined in one payment method with the application fee it will be considered an incorrect filing and the application as a whole will be rejected.
This update will hopefully alleviate the steady backlog and allow for quicker processing time for I-539 applicants.
For more information, the USCIS Newsroom has issued an Alert on the biometrics fee suspension USCIS Extends Temporary Suspension of Biometrics Submission for Certain Form I-539 Applicants | USCIS. For more general information on biometrics, the Department of State has provided background (Safety & Security of U.S. Borders: Biometrics (state.gov). Should you have any questions relating to this updated process please contact Aryanah Eghbal ([email protected]) and Mairin Hoban ([email protected]).