On May 3rd, USCIS acting associate director Connie L. Nolan announced that a policy change was being finalized that would waive the biometrics requirement for H-4, L-2, and E dependents, beginning May 17, 2021, and would be expected to expire automatically after two years (May 17, 2023). The policy change is being introduced to reduce the prolonged processing delays for I-539 applicants seeking to extend or change their status and I-765 applicants seeking employment authorization documents.
Nolan said in a sworn statement on May 3rd that “the current number of Form I-539s for H-4 and L-2 spouses in the backlog is approximately 123,000” and that “the current number of Form I-765s for H-4 and L-2 spouses in the backlog is approximately 57,500.”
The processing delays were especially troublesome during the height of the pandemic. Several lawsuits were filed against USCIS from many nonimmigrants—as many as 91,000 who lost their jobs in the process of waiting for their employment authorization document extensions.
What is the Biometrics Requirement?
USCIS initially introduced the biometrics screening requirement in 2019 and basically required applicants to submit their fingerprints, photographs, and digital signature.
Who will this policy apply to?
The biometric requirement suspension will apply to I-539 applications that were filed by H-4, L-2, E-1, E-2, and E-3 dependents if the applications are considered pending as of May 17th, 2021, and if they have not received a biometric services appointment notice yet or for any new applications received from May 17, 2021-2023. If you already have a biometrics appointment scheduled, then it is best to attend it. We expect to see some progress made with the significant backlogs USCIS is experiencing instead of this policy change. USCIS will provide more details about this policy change and the biometrics fee in the coming days when they release an official statement.