On May 3, 2021, USCIS announced its intention to suspend the collection of biometrics for applications submitted by the dependents of nonimmigrant workers in the H-4, L-2, and E-1, E-2, and E-3 categories effective 5/17/21.
The biometrics suspension will apply to the H-4, L-2, and E-1, E-2, and E-3 categories of Form I-539 applications if they are 1) pending on May 17, 2021, and have not yet received a biometric services appointment notice, and 2) are new applications received by USCIS from May 17, 2021, through May 23, 2022.
There are multiple reasons why this is a significant step forward to eliminate the backlog of approximate 125,000 pending H-4 and L-2 applications and their accompanying employment authorization applications.
COVID-19-related reductions in staffing of biometrics collection centers (ASCs) forced the development of an enormous backlog of applications from many categories that required biometrics as part of their application process. I-539 applications were caught up in this log jam of reduced biometrics appointments.
In addition, the biometrics requirement created a barrier to immediate adjudication of dependent applications. This resulted in the separation of the dependent applications from the primary nonimmigrant worker application. An unfortunate result of this process was the inability to benefit from premium processing of the primary application. In the past, USCIS would adjudicate the primary and dependent applications at the same time within the expedited premium processing timeframe. Due to the biometrics requirement, dependant applications were separated from the primary petition and their adjudication was delayed for months.
Hopefully, the elimination of the biometrics requirement will serve to expedite the processing of these long delayed applications. Many dependents have been forced to quit their jobs as they lost their employment authorization when their applications languished.
USCIS will issue guidance soon regarding the applicability of the biometrics suspension and biometrics fee.