Everything that you need to know about the new H4 biometric requirement.
As many of those that are in the United States on visas would know, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services added biometric process for H4 dependents beginning March this year.
By definition, biometrics is a detailed analysis of a person’s unique physical characteristics. The physiological identifiers that are often used to identify and authenticate include fingerprints, facial recognition, retina scanning and iris recognition.
Ever since the news of requirement for biometrics for H4 visas came about, there were doubts whether it would delay the process of H4 approvals, as in the recent past, there have been many cases of delayed approvals, and an increased Request for Evidence (RFE) notices.
According to immigration lawyers, with the biometric requirement in effect for I 539 applications, people are experiencing delays, even for those filed with a premium processing, which are in effect delaying H4 EAD process, too. However, it must be noted that the new biometric requirement is only for H4 visa holders applying for H4 visa extension. H4 EAD applicants are not required to undergo the biometric process.
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On February 11, this year, the USCIS announced that it would be revising its I-539 form to include biometrics requirement. An I-539 is an application form that is used by many on non-immigrant visas, including on H-4, l-2, O-3 and also F-1, B-1 and B-2 visas.
With the addition of biometrics requirement, the USCIS has included an additional $85 fee for biometrics services processing. So now applicants pay $85 over and above the initial $370 fee. The applicants are also required to attend a biometrics appointment at an application support center, which may be closest to the address of the applicant.
In the new revised scenario, the applicants are required to appear in person at a USCIS Application Support Center to have their biometrics include which include fingerprints, digital signature and photo. The requirement applies for children as well. The applicants are also required to sign the application requesting extension or change of status. Parents are expected to sign on behalf of children below 14 years of age.
The new biometric requirement would mean not just biometric collection but also an additional round of background check, which would in all probability result in longer processing time for the USCIS to adjudicate matters. This would also concurrently mean that the employment authorization request filed alongside the extension would also eventually get delayed. And this would include EAD applications for not just H-4 spouses but also L-2 and E visa holders.
The new I-539 form:
A new I-539 form has been introduced and it has been reduced to 7 pages from the initial form, which had 9 pages. In total, it is being estimated that it takes about 15 to 17 days to complete the overall biometric process.