The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has made a significant announcement regarding the biometric services fee for Form I-539, the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Effective from October 1st, USCIS is waiving the $85 biometric services fee as part of the Form I-539 application process. This change brings relief to applicants and streamlines the immigration application process.
What is this Fee Waiver Means?
Starting October 1st, applicants will no longer be required to pay the $85 biometric services fee when submitting Form I-539, provided their application is postmarked on or after this date. This waiver represents a positive shift towards making immigration processes more accessible and affordable for all.
Transition Period: Before October 1st
If you plan to submit your Form I-539 application before October 1st, be aware that you will still be scheduled for a biometric services appointment at the Application Support Center (ASC) and will need to attend as scheduled. This transition period ensures that those who initiated their applications before the fee waiver still receive the required services.
After October 1st: Biometric Services
From October 1st onward, the majority of applicants will no longer be scheduled for biometric services. USCIS has determined that, in most cases, biometrics will no longer be necessary. However, if there is a specific requirement for biometric data, applicants will receive a notification with detailed information about their biometric services appointment.
Refund Process for Mistaken Fee Submission
In the event of an accidental submission of the biometric services fee separate from the Form I-539 fee, USCIS will promptly refund the biometric services fee and accept the Form I-539. It’s important to note that if the biometric services fee is mistakenly combined with the filing fee for the paper Form I-539, this will be considered an incorrect filing, and USCIS will reject the Form I-539. If you inadvertently authorize a credit card payment that combines the biometric services fee with the application fee, USCIS will accept the request and only charge the application fee.
Wide-Ranging Impact: Who Benefits from the Fee Waiver?
The biometric services fee waiver takes effect for all applicants filing their forms on or after October 1st. This includes individuals filing Form I-539 to request an extension of stay or a change of status to nonimmigrant categories such as H-4, L-2, or E. Notably, USCIS had previously suspended the biometric data requirement for these categories until September 30, 2023, as outlined in the USCIS Progress Report for Fiscal Year 2022.
USCIS’s Commitment to Accessibility
This fee waiver is aligned with USCIS’s commitment to enhancing accessibility and reducing barriers for applicants. As indicated in the USCIS Progress Report for Fiscal Year 2022, USCIS is dedicated to achieving its goal of eliminating fees and the biometric services requirement for all Form I-539 applicants.
In conclusion, the USCIS’s decision to waive the biometric services fee for Form I-539 applicants starting October 1st is a significant step towards making immigration processes more affordable and accessible. This change will benefit a wide range of applicants and underscores USCIS’s dedication to simplifying and improving the immigration application process.
Matha L. Arias, Esq., an experienced immigration law attorney, offers a range of valuable services for individuals with immigration-related questions. She can provide legal consultations to assess specific immigration situations, assist with document preparation, guide through status changes, represent clients in deportation defense cases, aid in the naturalization process, facilitate family reunification, navigate employment-based immigration, handle asylum and refugee claims, assist with waivers and appeals, and ensure immigration compliance for businesses. Attorney Arias’ expertise and experience in immigration law make her a valuable resource for those seeking guidance and assistance in navigating the complexities of immigration matters.