For many immigrants in the United States who have had their immigration processes stalled while they wait for appointments to provide their fingerprints, photographs and/or signature to federal authorities, the recent closures due to the pandemic have been a major headache.  Immigration officials have acknowledged that these temporary closures and capacity limitations at local Application Support Centers due to the coronavirus pandemic have created a substantial volume of cases awaiting biometric services appointments.

Since the biometrics backlog has caused delays in the adjudication of immigration forms overall, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that it was suspending the biometrics requirement for certain applicants filing one of the most common immigration forms to extend or change a non-immigrant legal status. This suspension will last until May 2023.  The biometric services procedure normally takes 15 to 20 minutes. The information is later sent to law enforcement agencies for criminal and security checks. Biometrics is also one of the 10 steps for legal permanent residents to become U.S. citizens through naturalization..

According to USCIS, the temporary suspension of biometrics applies to applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status in the following visa categories:

▪ H-4 visa for spouses or children under 21 years of age of H-1B visa holders.

▪ L-2 visa for spouses or children under 21 years of age of L-1B visa holders.

▪ E-1 visa for nationals of countries for which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.

▪ E-2 visa for investors, including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor).

▪ E-3 visa for specialty occupation workers from Australia.