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USCIS suspends Biometrics for H4, L2, E Visas I-539 form filings until May 2023

In early May, USCIS mentioned as part of H4, L2 Processing Delays Lawsuit that they plan to suspend Biometrics for H4, L2, E Visa filings for couple of years. USCIS released an official press release yesterday, May 13th, 2021, confirming the same. This article covers all the details from the press release, how they will handle fee, who it applies to, other common FAQs based on the same.

Background: Biometrics for I-539 Form – H4, L2 filings : Delays, Lawsuit

USCIS introduced Biometrics requirement for I-539 Form from March 2019 as part of executive order 13780 by previous president Trump.  Due to this change, H4, L2, E and other visa types that use form I-539 form for Extensions and Change of Status (COS) applications had to give biometrics at an ASC for their application to be adjudicated.

Due to the COVID situation, many of the ASCs were closed from March 2020 and many of the H4, L2 visa holders could not give biometrics. Due to closure of ASCs, it caused an extensive amount of delays to give biometrics and H4, L2 processing times increased to about 17 to 20 months.  Below is a snapshot historical processing times tracked by VisaGrader – H4 Processing Times.

H4 Extension Processing Times CSC
H4 Extension Processing Times CSC

Due to these delays, many H4, L2 visa holders lost jobs as they could not get their Employment Authorization Documents(EAD) on time with pending H4, L2 and E visa extension & COS applications.  Also, USCIS does not give 180 days Automatic Extension for EAD Category Codes for H4, L2, E Visas. So, this did not help with the delays and many lost jobs.

Many of the impacted H4, L2 and E Visa holders due to these delays by USCIS went to court and filed a class action lawsuit represented by AILA and Wasden Banias.  The USCIS announcement to suspend biometrics is one of the outcomes of the lawsuit to reduce the delays and speed up the processing of the H4, L2 and E visa applications.

Now that you have the background on why the biometrics are suspended, let’s dive into the USCIS press release details and guidance by them.

Temporary Suspension of Biometrics for H4, L2, E Visa using I-539 Form

USCIS is suspending Biometrics for H4, L2 and E visa holders who file Extension of Stay(EOS) or Change of Status (COS) starting from May 17th, 2021.  Below is summary of all changes related to the same:

  • No fingerprints, Photo at ASC : Anyone filing for H4, L2, E Visas (E1, E2, E3) Extensions or COS using Form I-539 after May 17th, 2021 do not have to give fingerprints and take photo at Application Support Centers (ASCs). They do not have to go to ASCs and fill out Application Information Worksheet(AIW).
  • Dependent Children : The suspension of Biometrics also applies to H4 Dependent Children as well, in addition to the H4 Spouses.
  • 2 Years Suspension : The Biometrics suspension is temporary and will last for 2 years from May 17th, 2021 until May 17th, 2023. The reason for 2 year suspension is to address the current delays due to ASC openings and pending H4, L2, and E visas applications.
  • Pending & No Appointment notice : The biometrics suspension applies to all pending applications as of May 17th, 2021 and who have not received H4, L2 biometrics appointment notice.
  • Discretion for Biometrics : USCIS has discretion on a case-by-case basis to ask applicants to submit biometrics.
  • Received Biometrics Appointment Notice : If anyone has received Biometrics Appointment notice for their H4, L2 or E filing, they must still attend their scheduled appointment at an ASC.
  • Biometrics Fee Payment : No need to submit $85 Biometrics fee for H4, L2, E visa applications filed for Extensions and COS from May 17th, 2021 until May 17th, 2023.
  • Biometrics Fee Refund : If you have submitted Biometrics fee separately in a check, USCIS will refund the Biometrics fee for H4, L2 and E visa applications for COS, extensions.
  • Rejecting I-539 with Biometrics Fee : USCIS will reject I-539 paper based forms filed for H4, L2, E visas extensions or COS starting from May 27th, 2021 or later, if applicants submit the application filing fee and Biometrics fee combined in one check.  If USCIS rejects the application for the incorrect fee, then the applicant need to re-file form I-539
  • Adjust or Extend Suspension of Biometrics : USCIS will monitor the situation and ASC Capacity, processing times for I-539 and then may extend the suspension of Biometrics or adjust them as needed as things change.
  • Official News Link : You can check the USCIS Official News Release for Biometrics Suspension

Common FAQs

Is Biometrics Mandatory for H4 Extension / COS ? USCIS Suspended means ?

Yes, in general, giving Biometrics is mandatory for H4 Visa applications filed for extensions or Change of Status using form I-539. But, due to processing delays, USCIS suspended the Biometrics requirement for H4, L2 and E visa holders from May 17th, 2021 for 2 years until May 17th, 2023. So, if you are filing for H4 Extension after May 17th, 2021 and before May 17th, 2023, then you do not have to give biometrics.

How does H4, L2 Biometrics Suspension speed up processing times ?

Due to the limited operations of ASCs with COVID, many could not give biometrics, so there was a lot of delay with giving biometrics. Now, with Biometrics suspension, USCIS officers do not have to wait for the Biometrics anymore and they can process the H4, L2 applications immediately. This will speed up the processing as there is no bottleneck due to biometrics delays.

Does the Biometrics Suspension for H4, L2 also give 180 Days Automatic Extension for H4, L2 EAD ?

No, there is 180 days automatic extension for H4, L2 EADs. The previous rules still apply. You cannot work with H4 EAD Receipt or Pending Status of application, you need the EAD Card

Will the Biometrics Requirement be removed after 2 years for H4, L2 ?

No one knows at this point. USCIS says that they will review the overall situation and may extend or change based on the need.

What do you think of the suspension of Biometrics for H4, L2 and E Visa applications ? Do you think, it will really get things back to normal ? Share your thoughts in comments below.

   

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20 Comments

  1. Has anyone seen any improvements in processing times? My H4 and H4EAD have been pending since the end of December and my current EAD has expired.

    Reply
    • Rohit,
      So far, I have not seen many users share anything positive yet in terms of faster processing…we need to wait and see.

      Reply
  2. Hello,

    We applied for H1, H4, and H4 EAD concurrently in premium processing 3 weeks before H4 biometrics suspension was effective (i.e. 3 weeks before May 17, 2021). H1 is already approved. Now that biometrics is suspended, would USCIS process H4 and H4 EAD within 30 days of H1 approval for pending applications filed concurrently in premium prior to May 17, 2021? If that’s not the case, then it would be unfair to several pending applications for H4 and H4 EAD filed concurrently in premium with H1 before May 17, 2021 because USCIS would process H4, H4 EAD and H1 within 15 days if they are filed concurrently in premium May 17, 2021 onwards.

    Please see below for the dates for the respective events and let us know your thoughts.

    H1, H4, and H4 EAD filed concurrently in premium processing: Apr 26, 2021
    H1 Receipt Date mentioned on receipt notice: Apr 28, 2021
    H4 Receipt Date mentioned on receipt notice: Apr 28, 2021
    H1 Approval Date mentioned on approval notice: May 5, 2021
    H4 EAD Receipt Date mentioned on receipt notice: May 5, 2021

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Purshi,
      We do not know how they will adjudicate. We are yet to see data on this. As there is so much backlog, maybe they are working on first set of backlogged cases. Let’s hope it will be faster than before. Do update your timelines as you see changes for community benefit.

      Reply
  3. Mine and my 2 kids H4 visa expired on June,2020 tried for postal stamping and paid the fees but couldn’t receive an appointment date.We were planned to reach US in the academic year but it seems the renewal process will take time. We just need to stamp the renewal of visa on our passports.We are not in a position to go US as of this case.

    Reply
  4. H1 and H4 applications were filed on Feb26th,2021. H1 is approved. My wife’s current passport is going to expire on July 11th, 2021. We haven’t received any biometric appointment notice yet. Does this new rule, not requiring of biometric appointment, mean H4 processing would be expedited? Any news on this?
    What happens if H4 is not approved by end of July?

    Reply
  5. Hello,
    My H4 EAD is going to expire in July 2021 which will potentially impact my job continuity if not received by this July. Looking for some advises in here in to understand how my case can be expedited or predictions in securing active EAD status, in the interest of my work and family. Please find additional details below. Any advise is greatly appreciated..

    1. EB3 GC priority date: Feb 22, 2013
    2. H4 EAD extension pending since August 2020
    3. GC EAD biometrics completed on 04/22/21
    4. H4 EAD to expire on July 22, 2013

    Please let me know if you need any additional details or questions.

    Thanks
    Vijaya

    Reply
  6. Does this rule apply to existing applications that have not received biometrics?
    I applied for H-4 extension in December 2020 and have not received biometrics yet.

    Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  7. Hi Kumar,

    Does this rule apply to existing applications that have not received biometrics?
    I applied for H-4 extension in December 2020 and have not received biometrics yet.

    Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  8. I have a situation where I had applied for H4 + EAD for my spouse in July 2020 and we had a biometric appointment for May 12th 2021, since my spouse is stuck in India we had requested for postponement of appointment yesterday and the USCIS officer said application will be pushed into the scheduling queue again and we should receive a new appointment after 4 weeks time. So I was wondering if this new policy applies to our situation and USCIS cancels out biometric appointment altogether after May 17 and proceeds with processing of our EAD application ?

    Reply
    • Mani,
      Well, if you get the appointment notice, then you need to give biometrics. You can try to call them and see, if they can be waived. Your situation is not addressed in the guidance given by them.

      Reply
  9. Hi Kumar. Will this help speed up h4 ead process? Atleast before people used to get h4 and ead 2 months after biometrics. I fear after this things will stall completely.

    Reply
    • SudhaPSG,
      Yes, it should. The reason is H4 EAD was always stuck due to the biometrics tied to the H4. Now, with that lifted off, they will process H4 faster and so will H4 EAD be processed…

      Reply

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