Premium processing is available for a principal nonimmigrant’s Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, requesting an extension of status in the U.S. However, Premium processing is not available for an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, Form I-539, which is typically filed by dependent nonimmigrants (spouses and children of the principal nonimmigrant) concurrently with the principal’s Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, in order to extend the entire family’s status in the U.S.
What was “courtesy” premium processing?
Previously, when a dependent nonimmigrant’s I-539 was concurrently filed with a principal nonimmigrant’s I-129 for which premium processing was selected, USCIS would adjudicate both the I-129 and the I-539 within the 15-day premium processing period.
Why has the courtesy ended?
As of March 22, 2019, USCIS required the use of the I-539 with an edition date of 2/4/19. Along with many changes to the I-539, USCIS added the requirement that every dependent nonimmigrant applicant pay a biometrics fee and attend a biometrics appointment. This requirement does not apply to the principal nonimmigrant.
With the addition of the biometrics requirement for all dependent nonimmigrants, which takes at least three weeks to be completed, USCIS is no longer able to meet the 15-day premium processing timeframe and therefore ended the courtesy premium processing afforded to I-539s.
How is an I-539 handled now when the I-129 is premium processed?
When premium processing for an I-129 is selected, any concurrently filed I-539 is separated from the I-129 filing and placed in the queue with all other I-539s for processing.
The I-129 will be adjudicated within the 15-day premium processing timeframe while the timing of the processing of the I-539 is subject to current processing times, which fluctuate based on a number of factors.
What does this mean for dependent nonimmigrants?
Dependent nonimmigrants should expect it to take substantially longer for USCIS to adjudicate their I-539s than the principal nonimmigrant’s I-129.
While a dependent nonimmigrant who has a pending I-539 can remain in the U.S. beyond their expiration date, international travel may not be possible during the pendency of the application.
Accordingly, dependent nonimmigrants will need to take the adjudication timing into consideration when planning any international travel.