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USCIS Publishes New and Revised form I-539A

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USCIS Publishes New and Revised form I-539A

On March 8th, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, published a new form that must be submitted in an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Starting March 22, 2019, a new version of Form I-539 must be submitted for all future extensions or changes of status.

Form I-539 is an application used by many non-citizens to extend their stay in the United States or change their nonimmigrant status to another. This application is often used by visitors, collegiate students, vocational students, and work visa holders. Starting March 22, 2019, Form I-539A must also be filed in many circumstances when the primary applicant has a family member present and in possession of a similar visa or nonimmigrant status.

Important highlights to the changes are listed below:

  • Every co-applicant included on the primary applicant’s Form I-539 must submit and sign a separate Form I-539A, which will be available on the Form I-539 webpage on March 8. Parents or guardians may sign on behalf of children under 14 or any co-applicant who is not mentally competent to sign.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric services fee, except certain A, G, and NATO nonimmigrants as noted in the new Form I-539 Instructions to be published on March 8.
  • Every applicant and co-applicant will receive a biometric services appointment notice, regardless of age, containing their individual receipt number. The biometric services appointments will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC)closest to the primary applicant’s address. Co-applicants who wish to be scheduled at a different ASC location should file a separate Form I-539.

Visa categories that require submission of Form I-539A include:

  • Certain nonimmigrants extending their stay or changing to another nonimmigrant status;
  • CNMI residents applying for an initial grant of status;
  • F and M nonimmigrants applying for reinstatement; and,
  • Persons seeking V nonimmigrant status or an extension of stay as a V nonimmigrant.

So what does the newly implemented form mean for applicants and why the change? According to USCIS, the agency will now be collect fingerprints for all change or extension of status applicants, even for those under 14 years of age, to verify applicants’ identity and to ensure they are the rightful owners to the benefit. Biometrics will be taken on all applicants who submit the updated Forms I-539 and I-539A.

Immigration attorneys have raised a handful of immediate questions that USCIS has yet to answer. For instance, if the primary applicant is located in one part of the United States, but his or her co-applicant family members are located elsewhere, where will the co-applicant take his or her fingerprints?

USCIS states that it will be collecting fingerprint data for all change or extension of status applicants pursuant to Executive Order 13780, Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.  USCIS states that fingerprint data, or “biometrics,” allows them to verify every non-citizen’s identity. USCIS also contends that fingerprinting will strengthen its ability to make a decision in these applications, will help protect fraud or harm to the United States, and will ensure the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.

If you have any concerns regarding USCIS’s revision of Form I-539 and its implementation of the new Form I-539A, do not hesitate to reach out to Ibrahim Law Office, an immigration law firm, to schedule a consultation for yourself or a loved one.

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