As discussed in a prior post, USCIS began in March 2019 to require a new version of the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and introduced a biometrics fee and appointment requirement for each applicant. The Form I-539 has never been eligible for the government’s 15-day Premium Processing Service (PPS), but a particular subset of I-539 applicants — the dependents of principal nonimmigrants (e.g., the H-4 spouse of an H-1B worker) — have, until recently, benefited from “courtesy” PPS of the I-539 if it was filed with the principal’s own PPS’d application or petition.
When the new I-539 and biometrics requirements became mandatory on March 22, 2019, it was not immediately clear whether this would put an end to such “courtesy” PPS for nonimmigrant dependents. Now, however, it is clear that USCIS no longer gives “courtesy” PPS to dependents’ I-539 applications, most likely due to the biometrics appointment schedule, which usually takes a few weeks. Reported efforts to upgrade the principal’s case to the PPS track after the dependent’s biometrics have been completed have been unsuccessful.
This elimination of I-539 PPS for dependents means that their I-539s will be subject to the normal processing times for I-539s, found here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/. Because such processing times can run to several months, there may be effects on some dependents’ drivers license renewals and work authorization applications. Such applicants may benefit from individualized legal advice on alternatives to the I-539 process.
© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2019