USCIS to Suspend Biometrics Requirement for Certain I-539 Applicants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will be suspending the biometrics requirement for H-4, L-2 and E dependents. This temporary policy change is expected to go into effect on May 17, 2021, and remain in place for at least two years. The purpose of the change is to reduce the lengthy processing delays affecting these I-539 applications to extend or change status, along with any corresponding form I-765 applications for employment authorization documents (EADs), which cannot be adjudicated prior to the approval of the applicant’s underlying status request.

Background Information

In 2019, the USCIS implemented a policy that required most form I-539 applicants to complete biometrics screening – that is, to collect an applicant’s fingerprints, photograph, and digital signature. This biometrics requirement has caused significant delays in the processing of I-539 applications, especially during the pandemic. The processing delays, in turn, have resulted in the filing of numerous lawsuits against the USCIS, with applicants seeking relief from the courts to force the USCIS to adjudicate the long-pending cases. One such lawsuit alleges that more than 91,000 foreign nationals have lost their jobs while awaiting EAD extensions.

Expected Suspension of Biometrics Requirement

On May 3, 2021, the USCIS indicated through a declaration submitted to a federal court that it will suspend the biometrics requirement for certain I-539 applicants for a two-year period beginning May 17, 2021. The biometrics suspension will apply to I-539 applications filed by H-4, L-2, and E-1, E-2, and E-3 dependents if the applications are (1) pending on May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice, or (2) are new applications received by the USCIS from May 17, 2021 through May 17, 2023. The USCIS is expected to make an official announcement regarding the biometrics suspension in the near future, which will clarify the scope of the biometrics suspension and biometrics fee.

Impact of Anticipated Biometrics Suspension

The suspension of the biometrics requirement is expected to reduce some of the lengthy processing backlogs of H-4 and L-2 EAD applications. The USCIS has not officially announced the suspension, therefore an individual with a scheduled biometrics appointment should plan to attend the appointment on time. It should be noted that an EAD application can be deemed abandoned for an applicant’s failure to attend a biometrics appointment.


This coming suspension of the biometrics requirement is a welcome change that should improve processing times and reduce or eliminate gaps in employment authorization for many dependent spouses. The Murthy Law Firm is monitoring the pending biometrics suspension and will provide updates as more information is made available.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.