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USCIS Removes Biometrics Requirement, Fee for I-539 Form

USCIS announced yesterday in a press release that they are exempting the standard biometrics services fee for anyone filing Form I-539 starting from October 1st, 2023. In this article, we will look at the background of biometrics and what it means for applicants applying for Extensions or Change of Status(COS) for H4, L2, F1, and other forms with USCIS.

Background of Biometrics Requirement for I-539 Form

During the Trump Presidency era, they introduced the executive order EO 13780, “Protecting the National from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” DHS wanted to protect America from foreign Terrorists and individuals who can cause threats as per the EO 13780. As part of that Executive Order, USCIS updated the I-539 form and started to collect Biometric information for better screening and vetting for national security. You can read more at Biometrics Fee for I-539 Form, H4, L2, and others.

Since USCIS introduced the Biometrics Collection for Form I-539 starting in March 2019, due to various logistical issues, the overall processing times increased for anyone who filed Extensions for Change of Status(COS) using Form I-539. The biggest impact of those were H4 and L2 Visa holders, who could not work and lost jobs.

In 2021, USCIS as part of H4, L2 Processing Delays Lawsuit, came to a settlement to suspend Biometrics for H4, L2, and E Visa filings for a couple of years. Later, in April 2023, they extended the suspension of biometrics until September 30th, 2023.

USCIS as part of their Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report, mentioned their intent to remove Biometrics for I-539 form. Below is a screenshot of the same. The current announcement to remove biometrics fees and its requirement is based on their prior announced plan.

USCIS FY 2022 Progress Report - Removal of Biometrics for I-539 Form
USCIS FY 2022 Progress Report – Removal of Biometrics for I-539 Form

Now that you have some background, let’s look at the details of the USCIS announcement and what it means for H4, L2 and other visa holders.

USCIS News: Biometrics Removal, Fee Exemption for I-539 Form

Below is the summary of the USCIS press release on Biometrics removal and biometrics fee suspension for anyone filing I-539 form

  • No Biometrics Fee for I-539 Form: Starting from October 1st, 2023, anyone filing Form I-539 either for extension or change of status, are exempt from the $85 biometrics services fee. In the past, you had to pay this mandatory fee, but going forward, this is not required.
  • Filing I-539 before Oct 1st, Biometrics Appointment: If you have filed I-539 form for Change of Status or Extensions before October 1st, 2023, some of you may be scheduled to attend a biometrics appointment at an ASC. If you have such appointments scheduled, you must attend them.
  • No Biometrics in Most cases: USCIS says, in most cases, after Oct 1st, 2023, most of the applicants filing form I-539 will not be scheduled for biometrics. But, it is not a blanket elimination of biometrics for all I-539 form applicants.
  • USCIS Discretion for Biometrics: It is USCIS discretion to determine if Biometrics are required for an applicant. If they determine so, they will send a notice to the applicant to attend biometrics. In such cases, the applicant has to attend the biometrics appointment.
  • Return of Biometrics Fee: If you file the I-539 form fee and Biometrics fee separately along with your I-539 application by mistake, then USCIS will return the fee and accept form I-539. The big catch here is that the fees have to be separate checks.
  • Reject Form I-539: If the I-539 form fee and Biometrics fee is combined in one check, then USCIS will reject form I-539 as an incorrect filing. In this case, you will need to refile again properly without the biometrics fee.
  • Credit Card Authorization, Accept application: By mistake, if you authorize the credit card payment for the combined fee of I-539 and Biometrics, then USCIS will accept the application and only charge the application fee. In this case, they do not reject the application.
  • Biometrics Fee Exemption Applies to H4, L2 and E Visa Holders: USCIS previously suspended biometrics for H4, L2 and E visa holders. This biometrics fee exemption also applies to these H4, L2 and E visa holders starting from October 1st, 2023.

Impact of Change in Biometrics Collection Policy

This policy change by USCIS to stop collecting Biometrics & its fee from most of the I-539 applicants will have a tremendous positive impact on the processing times of the I-539 form. As of now, only H4, L2, and E visa applicants were getting benefited. But, starting from October 1st, 2023, this change will reduce the backlogs in the processing times of I-539 form.

If you look at the USCIS historical median processing times for I-539 form, in 2018, it was 3.4 months and since the introduction of biometrics, it kept on increasing and even touched 9.6 months in FY2021. Below is a screenshot of the USCIS historical median processing

USCIS Historical Processing times for Form I-539 from 2018 to 2023
USCIS Historical Processing times for Form I-539 from 2018 to 2023

This new policy change will hopefully get the processing times back to normal soon for I-539 form. What do you think of the policy change to stop collecting biometrics fee and biometrics for most of the I-539 applicants? Share your inputs in the comments section below.


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1 Comment

  1. Hi
    I am from Telangana, with 68% marks in 12th. I wants to go to USA so that I can get good money and also good dahury . is there a special visa for telugu speakers? so many my friends in kalifornya with no intelligence and spoils the US by illigal entry so can somebody pls tell me how to go to usa?


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