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I-539 form USCIS – Biometrics Required, Fee, Process. H4, L2 Processing Delays

USCIS changed the Form I-539 and added new requirements in March 2019. As part of the change, USCIS collects Biometrics and done updates to the form and how the applications are processed for anyone using I-539. This change impacts H4, F1, L2 and many other visa holders that use I-539 form with USCIS. This article covers all the changes, biometrics fee, process and impact to processing times in general, including latest news on the form.

Background : Why Biometrics with I-539 form ? Visa Types ?

One of the fundamental reason for the updating the I-539 form with Biometrics option is the Executive order EO 13780. As per that EO with title “Protecting the National from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”, DHS want to protect America from foreign Terrorists and individuals who can cause threat. Wit the updated I-539 form, DHS is planning to collect Biometric information for better screening and vetting for national security.

Impacted Visa Types with New I-539 form

I-539 form is used by many categories of visa holders and it will impact all of them.

  • H1B, L1 dependents ( spouse, children) – H4 Holders filing for extension/ change of their status
  • L1 Dependents ( spouse, children) – L2 holders filing for extension/ change of their status
  • B1 / B2 – Visitor visa holders to extend/ change their status
  • F1 for COS, Reinstatements, J1 Holders
  • Other visa holders dependents like CW-2, E category dependents, G, G-5 etc.

Changes in the I-539 Form after Biometrics

The updated form I-539 with biometrics has not changed much, just some minor changes. There are some minor changes in pages 1,2, 4, 6 and 7. See below at the end of article, where we highlighted what changed in every page.   One of the major change is removal of the Supplement A section from I-539 form and put it a separate form. Also, a new version of the I-539 form was updated in March 2021 after Biden administration removed the public charge rule. The current version of the form I-539 now 7 pages.

Below is how you can identify if you are on the latest form or not. It was updated in 2021 as well and now the current edition is 3/10/21 and expires 09/30/2021. See below screenshot.

I539 Current version of the Form 3-10-21
I539 Current version of the Form edition 3/10/21 with Biometrics

Added New I-539A form for Co-Applicants

The I-539A form is the new form that was created with the Supplement section in the previous I-539 form. Every co-applicant, who is filing along with the primary I-539 applicant should submit a separate I-539A form and each of the co-applicant has to sign in their respective form. For children under 14 years of age or who cannot sign to due to health reasons, their parents or guardians can sign.

How much Biometrics Fee ? How to pay ?

The I-539 Biometrics fee is $85 USD for every applicant and co-applicant. This biometrics fee is in addition to standard I-539 form fee of $370 USD. If you are part of A, G, and NATO categories, you do not need to pay biometric fee.  If you do not include this fee, your application will be denied.

Example :  If let’s say you have 2 children filing along with one dependent then fee would be like below for all 3 of them.

  • Application Fee : $370
  • Biometric Fee : $85*3 = $255

If you are giving check, it is recommend to give separate checks for each of the biometric appointments to avoid confusion. You need to give separate checks for each of the biometric appointment to avoid confusion.

I-539 Processing Steps with Biometrics

  • Step 1 – Completing, Sending I-539, I-539A Application Forms : The first step of submitting application form I-539 is same as before. You need to complete the latest version of I-539 form and submit the application form to the respective address. If you have any dependents, now you would also attach additional I-539A forms, as applicable for each of the co-applicants, sign and send it to the respective USCIS center. The change in process happens after you send to the application form.
  • Step 2 – Biometrics Notices : After you submit the complete application form along with fee with USCIS, each of the applicant and co-applicants will receive a separate Biometric services appointment notice containing individual receipt number. 
    • The appointments will be scheduled at the nearest “Application Support Center (ASC)” closest to the main applicant’s address.  
    • If you want to give biometrics to be done at a different location, then you need to file a separate I-539 form.  
    • The applicants will receive an advance notice of 7 days for the biometric appointment. They can re-schedule as needed. On an average, they say that it will take about 17 days for the overall biometric process. But, this varies by the load and situations. with COVID, this has taken months due to less availability of ASCs.
    • Also, since the pandemic, the Biometrics notices also arrive with Application Information Worksheet (AIW) that needs to be filled by the applicant and submitted at the ASCs.
  • Step 3 – Giving Biometrics : After the applicants receive the Biometrics notices, they need to go to the respective ASC and give Biometrics. They will stamp on the Biometrics appointment notice confirming the same. They will take the AIW form and update their system with the information in it.
  • Step 4 – General Processing of I-539 : After the biometrics are complete, then the standard processing of the Form I-539 starts. Biometrics is considered as a pre-requisite to process the general form. Applicants would get approval, RFE or Denial based on general application processing and documentation.

I539 Processing time, Delays of H4, H4 EAD, L2 with Biometrics

As per USCIS guidance, typically they would take about 17 days on average to complete the I-539 biometric process from the day they receive the I-539 application(assuming no re-schedules) form. But, the reality is very different. Based on various H4 & H4 EAD Biometrics Experiences, it is pretty clear that there can be anywhere from few weeks to few months delays with the biometrics process.

Also, during COVID-19 situation, there is less availability of the ASC and there have been significant delays with the Biometrics processing of the I-539 forms. It has taken many months for USCIS to process the Biometrics due to the ASC Closures and limited capacity. Read USCIS Delays with 1.3 million Biometrics appointments to know more.

You can check the I-539 – H4 Visa Historical Processing times to get an idea on the typical processing times. The processing times vary significantly based on the type of visa you are filing the form I-539 form. There are extensive delays with F1, B1/B2 extensions or Change of status applications.

Premium Processing of H4, H4 EAD, L2 with Biometrics

In the past USCIS would process H4 and H4 EAD along with H1B premium processing within the 15 days premium processing clock as a courtesy. But, with biometrics requirement for H4 extensions or COS in the process, they said they are not going to process H4 and H4 EAD in premium processing.

USCIS said they will process the H4 and H4 EAD only after the Biometrics are complete. Based on historical data from 2019, 2020, they have been taking anywhere from 2 months to 6 months or more for H4 and H4 EAD processing, even if the H1B was filed in premium processing.

There are some misconceptions that, if you upgrade after biometrics are given, they would process H4 and H4 EAD faster, but that is not true. There is no consistent response by USCIS. In some cases, some users are lucky, but many are not lucky and there is no pattern as such. You can check H4 & H4 EAD Biometrics Experiences

Biometrics Process at Application Support Center ?

At Application Support Centers(ASC), they will capture your fingerprints, photograph and/or signature and you will need to confirm your application details, stating they are true and correct under penalty of perjury ( basically under US laws oath stating they all are correct).  

You will need to submit Application Information Worksheet(AIW) that has details about your age, weight, your physical characteristics. Read How to fill Application Information Worksheet(AIW), Sample to get more info

USCIS  suggests that you review your application beforehand or have a copy of what you have sent to the USCIS center, so that you know what you have sent to review and confirm the same at the Application Support Center.

Common FAQs

Do you need to do any Biometric Appointment Scheduling ?

No, you do not have to do any separate appointments. USCIS will automatically do all the biometric appointment scheduling and send you the notice for appointment date and time, you can change it as needed after you received it.

Is Biometrics Mandatory for everyone filing I-539 form ?

Yes, it is mandatory for pretty much all of the applicants using I-539 form for extension/ change of status for many types of visa holder such as H4, F1, etc. except for certain A, G, or NATO Classification categories.

How will USCIS handle lot of Biometric appointments? Will it delay H4 processing ?

In the past, USCIS said that Biometrics are done by contractors and they can increased as needed to handle load, if there is surge in appointments. The overall processing times should not be impacted by a big margin, except additional 17 days. But, the reality is very different with COVID-19 situation. There has been significant amount of delays with Biometrics processing.

I am a H1B Holder filing I-129 form, Do I need Biometric appointment as well?

No, you do not need to go to biometrics. It is only for H4 holders using the form I-539.

What if I am outside of the Country ? How does Biometrics with Travel outside of USA ?

As per USCIS guidance, on their I-539 form instructions (page 12), you should call up the nearest US consulate/ embassy and arrange for the biometrics. It says “If you are currently overseas, instruct you to contact a US Embassy, US Consulate or USCIS Office outside of United States to setup an appointment “,  see below screenshot. USCIS H4 Biometrics - Travel and Outside of the country

New I-539 form Changes by Page Compared with Old I-539 Form

I-539 New form by USCIS 2019 Page 1
I-539 New form by USCIS 2019 Page 2
I-539 New form by USCIS 2019 Page 4
I-539 New form by USCIS 2019 Page 6
I-539 New form by USCIS 2019 Page 7

Check latest form info at I-539 form at USCIS website

What do you think of the new form ? Share your experiences with the New form and Biometrics appointments

   

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552 Comments

  1. Hi, I have a question.

    My wife is in india and her h1 got approved. Her job not falls under NIE category. Can she go for H4 stamping and come to US, and then apply change of status i539 from h4 to h1? Is it a valid scenario and how much time it’s going to take for approval for i539 change of status?

    Reply
  2. Hi, I filed my i-539 on apr 14 2021 and status is “fingerprint fee was received” since then. Anyone having the same situation?

    Reply
  3. Hi,
    I have applied extension of stay for my Mom (B2 Visa holder) in Aug 2020, now July 2nd 2021 status is “Biometrics Appointment Was Scheduled”. My Mom travelled back to year
    India in Sept. What should i do for Biometric appointment? Whom to contact on this situation? Please help

    B2 Visa entry to US – 03/10/2020
    I-94 (6 months) validity upto – 09/09/2020
    I-539 extension filed – 08/16/2020 (status- Received)
    Exit US on – 09/18/2020 (overstayed in the US for 9 days)
    I-539 status – 07/02/2021 (status-Biometrics Appointment Was Scheduled )

    Reply
  4. What is the processing time for My H4 Extension. My passport is going to expire on december 18, 2021. My Receipt number is WAC2113950182.

    Reply
    • 1.) Processing time
      https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/
      (enter your form number and then processing location)

      2.) Passport renewal
      Also you should be able to renew your passport with receipt from pending case.

      For more details check here
      https://services.vfsglobal.com/usa/en/ind/apply-passport

      Check this line from documents required for passport renewal
      https://services.vfsglobal.com/one-pager/india/united-states-of-america/passport-services/#new-booklet

      Mandatory: VALID STATUS IN THE USA: Please submit the below documents as applicable, in Color – copy &
      Notarized (with Stamp and Notary signature;
      – Valid Green Card,
      – Valid Visa,
      – EAD
      – Valid I-797A Approval Notice,
      – Valid Work permit/Study Permit, OR
      – Recently expired Visa or I-797A Approval notice together with I-797C Receipt Notice for filing of a request for extension
      before the expiry of Visa or I-797A. Notarized copy of proof of extension, If your B1/B2 is expired and have a receipt for
      extension of stay or an approval for extension of stay.
      – Notarized hotel bill – If the customer on L1/L3 staying in a hotel for a project for the past couple of months and don’t have
      the address proof or state ID.

      Reply
  5. Filed my I-539 Apr 10, 2021, and was scheduled for Biometric last May 3, How long would it take for visa and EAD approval? TIA

    Reply
  6. What if I am outside of the Country ? How does Biometrics with Travel outside of USA ?

    The response for the above FAQ indicates the potential to do this biometrics appointment outside of USA but this has not been called out in the instructions for form i-539. The attached image is from form i-765. Can you please confirm?

    Reply
  7. We are on a B2 Visa. Our flight got cancelled. I have a 15 yo with me. Can he make his own UCIS account and apply for I-539 ? So, we can both file an extension of stay online?

    Reply
  8. Hi,
    I had my biometrics for L2 I-539 end of March, receipt date was 24/08/2020 – anyone knows how long it takes for approval after biometrics?
    thanks – Julia

    Reply
    • Did they approved to you? I have the same case but I have the interview within 2 days. And I am trying to find out how long takes til they approve it.

      Thank you

      Reply
  9. My I-539 application was filed in Dec 2020 and got my biometric done on March 12th 2021. How much time it normally takes after finger printing? Who should I reach if I need to ?

    Reply
  10. Does USCIS skip the biometrics appointment based on the time since the previous biometrics were taken?

    My spouse and child had given their biometrics in Mar 2020, and now I am applying for I-539 now in Apr 2021 along with my H1 extension. Is there any possibility that USCIS will reuse the biometrics taken last year?

    Reply
  11. I am a Canadian visiting my partner in the usa since december 2020. I applied for an extension on march 17, 2021 and my 1-94 expires june 3,2021. I have a flight back on april 15 and my case is still being reviewed. If I don’t hear back about my case, Do I just stay in the us until they contact me? Do I need to leave before my 1-94 expires because I read some place that we can stay 240 days while being reviewed, but does that mean I can’t return in the future? I don’t want issues returning in the future since my partner lives here, so I need guidance if I have to leave april 15, and if so, do I withdraw my application? Also, if i am miraculously approved before my flight back, after the extension expires, when am I allowed back in the usa? Do I have to wait 6 months or does it start over and I have 180 days to visit? Thank for anyone that can help .

    Reply
  12. I have applied on 31 Dec2020 for visa status change from L2 to O3 and received biometric appointment dated 24 Feb 2021. How long would it take for visa approval?

    Reply
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