U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will publish the new version of Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status on Friday and will allow a grace period until March 21 for the previous version of the form to be received by the agency.

Form I-539 is required for change or extension of status for certain visa holders and for derivative family members of nonimmigrant visa holders, including H-4 spouses of H-1B workers. The new version introduces a mandatory biometrics appointment process and biometrics services fee.

Key points:

  • The new version of the form will be available on the USCIS website on March 8.
  • USCIS will continue to accept the old version of the form if they are received by USCIS by close of business March 21.
  • Starting March 22, USCIS will only accept the new version of Form I-539 (edition date 02/04/2019); old versions received after that date will be rejected.

Background: Form I-539 Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is filed by dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders, including H, L, E, O and others such as B-1/B-2 visitors, as well as individuals changing to F, J or M status.

USCIS originally announced that the new version would be available March 11 and take effect immediately, but will now publish the form earlier and provide a grace period.

The new form introduces biometrics appointments. Each applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometrics fee when filing the form, and will receive a notice scheduling an appointment for their biometrics (digital photo and fingerprints) to be taken at their nearest USCIS application support center.

A new Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status will also be released on Friday, replacing the current Supplement A. Each family member of the primary Form I-539 applicant must sign and submit a separate Form I-539A, and the forms must be submitted together.

BAL Analysis: The two-week grace period provides additional time for nonimmigrant visa holders to file the current edition of Form I-539, but the grace period will end on March 21, before H-1B cap season opens on April 1. As a result of the short time frame, employers may choose not to file the new Form I-539 simultaneously with their H-1B cap petitions and would instead wait for a receipt notice for H-1B petitions before filing the I-539 forms for the employee’s derivative family members. Applicants are reminded that the biometrics procedures are new and may delay processing of the I-539 and concurrently filed applications for employment authorization documents.

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

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