By: Sharon Barney, Esq.
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.
If you have any questions regarding Form I-539, H-1B visas, or immigration law updates, please contact Sharon Barney. Sharon is a Partner in Leech Tishman’s Immigration and Family Law Practice Groups. Sharon is based in the firm’s State College office. Sharon can be reached at 814.954.5904 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in alternative dispute resolution, aviation & aerospace, bankruptcy & creditors’ rights, construction, corporate, employee benefits, employment, energy, environmental, estates & trusts, family law, government relations, immigration, insurance coverage & corporate risk mitigation, intellectual property, international legal matters, litigation, real estate, and taxation. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in El Segundo, CA, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Sarasota and Wilmington, DE.