On May 3, 2021, USCIS announced that it will suspend the collection of biometrics for H-4, L-2 and E-1, E-2, and E-3 nonimmigrants for a 24-month period starting on May 17, 2021.
Currently, H-4, L-2 and E nonimmigrants who file for an extension of their nonimmigrant status must go in person to a USCIS Application Support Center (ASC), where USCIS collects their fingerprints, photographs, and digital signatures. USCIS uses an applicant’s biometric information to determine the applicant’s eligibility for the requested immigration benefit, to verify the applicant’s identity, and for the purpose of completing related criminal background and national security checks.
However, the increasing backlog of pending I-539 applications for H-4 and L-2, compounded by the reduced capacity of ASCs to administer biometrics collection due to implementation of COVID-19 protocols, has recently spawned litigation challenging H-4 and L-2 adjudication delays. Significantly, increased processing times for H-4 and L-2 extension requests have also delayed adjudication of corresponding I-765 applications, meaning these applicants have had to stop working until they received renewals of their EADs from USCIS.
The suspension of the biometrics collection requirements will apply to I-539 applicants in the H-4, L-2 and E-1, E-2 and E-3 categories with a) applications pending as of May 17, 2021 who have not yet been scheduled for their biometrics appointment, and b) new applications received by USCIS during the 24-month biometrics suspension period, i.e., from May 17, 2021 to May 17, 2023, subject to revocation or suspension of the new policy by USCIS.