Earlier this year, in March 2019, USCIS published a revised Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and a new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, both with an edition date of 2/4/19. The revised Form I-539 has significant changes, including the requirement that every applicant pay a biometrics fee and attend a biometrics appointment, regardless of age.
Due to this new biometric requirement for all I-539 applicants, USCIS can no longer continue its prior courtesy practice of providing premium processing service to I-539 applications filed concurrently with a qualifying I-129 petition. Rather, I-539 applications are now separated from the I-129 petition and follow the regular I-539 processing queue, as I-539 applications are not eligible for premium processing. USCIS has indicated that since it usually takes at least three weeks for the I-539 biometrics to be completed, USCIS cannot meet the 15-day premium processing timeframe.
Keeping this development in mind, applicants should carefully note that their I-539 application may take substantially longer to process than the principal I-129 petition. As an alternative to filing the I-539 application with USCIS, derivatives may choose to process for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad after the I-129 petition is approved, in order to avoid processing delays associated with the adjudication of Form I-539 by USCIS. Before deciding to process abroad, applicants should take into account important issues relating to their specific situation, such as timing, travel restrictions, visa processing issues, and finances.
Finnan, Fleischut & Associates will continue to keep our clients advised of important developments in this area. If you have specific questions about how these developments affect a current or possible future situation, please contact us.