U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Wednesday that it will begin accepting online applications from certain business visitors, tourists and students who are seeking to extend their stays in the United States. This announcement came after USCIS announced a new eProcessing program to accelerate USCIS’ transition to a digital business model. The agency said eProcessing “will be a complete digital experience, from applying for a benefit, to communicating with USCIS, through receiving a decision on a case.”

Key points:

  • Applicants may file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status online if they are applying as single applicants (not co-applicants) and hold status as a:
    • B-1 temporary visitor for business,
    • B-2 temporary visitor for pleasure,
    • F-1 academic student with a specific status expiration date,
    • F-2 spouse or child of an academic student with a specific expiration date,
    • M-1 vocational student, or
    • M-2 spouse or child of an M-1 student.
  • Applicants with F-2 or M-2 nonimmigrant status who want to extend their stay must compare the expiration date of their status with the expiration date of their spouse or parent’s status. If the dates are different, the F-2 or M-2 applicant may apply online as an individual. If the dates are the same, they should apply as a co-applicant using the paper Form I-539.

Background: Wednesday’s announcement is part of a broader effort to expand online filing options. Besides the new eProcessing options described above, the Department of Homeland Security plans to propose a rule to move toward end-to-end electronic processing. USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said in an interview in October that he hopes for online filing to be available for all applications and petitions by the end of 2020.

BAL Analysis: The online filing option is welcome news that will allow eligible applicants to avoid hardcopy applications and move into the processing queue faster. For now, eProcessing is only available for a limited number of applications and petitions. USCIS has said it will broaden the availability of eProcessing to other classifications soon.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@bal.com.

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