USCIS Ends Courtesy Premium Processing of Concurrently Filed I-539
It is fairly common for dependents of a nonimmigrant worker to file an application to extend / change nonimmigrant status (form I-539) concurrently with the principal spouse’s petition for a nonimmigrant worker (form I-129). Historically, if the I-129 was filed with a request for premium processing (form I-907), the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would adjudicate the concurrently-filed I-539 application via premium processing, as well, as a courtesy. This made sense, because it was more efficient to review and approve both petitions together. The USCIS recently announced, however, that this practice has been abandoned. Standard processing now applies to all I-539 applications, even if filed concurrently with an I-129 that is filed with premium processing.
New Biometrics Requirement for I-539 Leads to End of Courtesy Premium Processing
The USCIS guarantees that qualifying petitions filed for premium processing will be processed within fifteen (15) calendar days. I-539 applications have never been eligible for premium processing but, as mentioned above, generally have been processed under premium processing, when filed concurrently with the principal’s I-129 petition and I-907 request.
Earlier this year, the USCIS introduced a new biometrics requirement for all I-539 applications. Several weeks after the I-539 is filed, the applicant is scheduled for a biometrics appointment, and the I-539 cannot be approved until the biometrics is completed. Due to this delay, the USCIS cannot adjudicate the I-539 forms within the same premium processing timeframe as form I-129 petitions. Therefore, the USCIS has opted to eliminate the premium processing of these I-539 applications.
Under the current Administration, USCIS processing times have increased significantly – one of the many additional barriers that have been erected to make legal immigration more burdensome, expensive, and inconvenient. Imposing the additional biometrics requirement for spouses and children filing I-539 applications is a prime example of this, as is the corresponding elimination of the courtesy premium processing service.