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USCIS Will No Longer Premium Process H-4s and L-2s filed with H-1B and L-1 Petitions

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) reports that USCIS will no longer continue its “courtesy practice” of providing premium processing service to H-4 and L-2 applications (Form I-539) filed concurrently with H-1B and L-1 petitions (Form I-129). Rather, USCIS will separate an I-539 application from the I-129 petition and follow the regular I-539 processing time, since I-539 applications are no longer eligible for premium processing.

All this is necessary, according to USCIS, due to the new requirement of biometrics for I-539 applications: USCIS cannot complete the newly-required biometrics within the 15-day time frame required under premium processing. It generally takes at least three weeks for the I-539 biometrics to be completed, such that USCIS can not meet the 15-day premium processing timeframe. With that in mind, some AILA members have attempted to upgrade to premium processing the I-129 petition and the concurrently filed I-539 application after the I-539 biometrics are completed, in an attempt to get both the I-129 petition and I-539 application adjudicated via premium processing, but to no avail.

Since USCIS is not obligated to adjudicate an I-129 and I-539 concurrently, clients are advised that the I-539 application may take substantially longer to process than the principal employee’s I-129 petition. USCIS is currently taking between 2 and 7 months to adjudicate Forms I-539 for H-4 and L-2 applicants, depending on the specific case type.

Depending on timing, travel restrictions, visa processing issues, finances, etc., as an alternative to filing the I-539 application with USCIS, H-4 and L-2 applicants may decide to travel overseas to an American after the I-129 petition is approved, in order to avoid these processing delays.

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