• USCIS Announces Updates to Form I-539 Prior to H-1B Season
  • February 15, 2019 | Author: Sharon Dudee Barney
  • Law Firm: Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, LLC - State College Office
  • On February 11, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) announced a revision to Form I-539, including a new addendum under Form I-539A, that will be required after March 11, 2019. While seemingly innocuous, this change, in addition to the recent changes to the H-1B filing process, will impact H-1B holders, their dependents, and employers.

    Form I-539 is an application to change or extend a nonimmigrant visa status. In the H-1B visa context, Form I-539 is filed by dependents of current or potential H-1B holders along with Form I-129, which is the petition to extend H-1B visa status or apply for a new H-1B employee. For example, Form I-539 may be used by a spouse of an H-1B holder who is currently in F-2 status to change to an H-4 status after Form I-129 is approved, or it can be used to further extend the present H-4 status. Obtaining or extending H-4 status is crucial for dependents as H-4 visa holders can obtain employment authorization in certain contexts. Losing H-4 status can be detrimental to the overall family’s financial situation, as well as to employers who employ these visa holders.

    Changes to Form I-539 include:

    • Every co-applicant on Form I-539 must file Form I-539A and provide a signature accordingly
    • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometrics fee and appear for a biometrics appointment
    In addition to the overall slowdown of adjudications of H-1B and H-4 applications alike, requiring biometrics can further delay the approval of an H-4 application, which can delay the ability to extend or apply for employment authorization. Employers who employ H-4 visa holders may need to be prepared for workforce adjustments based on this update and fast-changing area of law.