Family dependents of nonimmigrant visa holders filing to extend their status in the U.S. (Form I-539), including H-4 spouses of H-1B workers, are experiencing lengthy processing delays of several months.

Key points:

  • Since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services introduced a new Form I-539, it is no longer providing concurrent premium processing of family dependents’ extension applications with the qualifying employee’s petition.
  • This reverses the longstanding practice of offering concurrent premium processing to derivative family members whose principal has filed a premium processing petition, such as H-4 spouses and children of an H-1B worker.
  • Family dependents’ extension of status and employment authorization documents are being processed in the regular queue and lengthy delays are anticipated.
  • Some approval notices are now being issued for those who filed the new form on and after March 22, when the new form became mandatory.
  • Depending on the USCIS service center, current processing times range from 2.5 to 8 months.

Background: USCIS introduced a new version of Form I-539 Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status on March 22 with little notice. The form is required for change or extension of status for certain visa holders, including individuals changing to F, J or M status, and for derivative family members of nonimmigrant visa holders, including H, L, E, O and others.

The form introduced a new biometrics fee and in-person appointment for taking biometrics. The agency indicated in a call with stakeholders that because the biometrics appointment takes three weeks, it would no longer be able to meet the 15-day premium processing time frame, and would no longer offer concurrent premium processing as a courtesy.

BAL Analysis: Affected family dependents should prepare for delays and possible lapse of their work authorization while their extension is pending. Depending on individual circumstances, some applicants may consider going abroad and applying for their visa at a U.S. Consulate to avoid USCIS processing delays.

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

Copyright © 2019 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact