Breaking Down the Recent USCIS Biometric Fee Exemption Update

The H4 visa serves as an essential immigration tool for the spouses and children (under 21) of H1B visa holders. It enables these family members to stay in the US alongside their loved ones. This type of visa is particularly helpful for families looking to maintain a sense of normalcy and unity while one member contributes to the American workforce. It also offers some benefits, such as the ability for certain H4 visa holders to apply for work authorization in the United States.

Given its complexities, securing an H4 visa often benefits from the expertise of a green card lawyer in NYC. This guide aims to shed light on the H4 visa process and unpacks the recent USCIS announcement about a biometric fee exemption.

Understanding the H4 visa – What is it?

The H4 visa aims to keep families together in the United States by allowing spouses and unmarried children under 21 to live in the country while a family member works on an H1B visa. This visa type plays an essential role in promoting family unity and provides a sense of stability for families relocating to the US for work opportunities. Additionally, the H4 visa allows family members to attend school, although it restricts them from working unless they obtain specific work authorization.

Although the visa helps maintain family togetherness, it can be difficult to obtain. It involves meeting specific eligibility requirements and following certain procedures. a green card lawyer in NYC can help you navigate these complex requirements and improve your chances of visa approval.

Recent changes to USCIS biometric services fee

Starting on October 1, 2023, the USCIS eliminated the $85 biometric services fee for anyone filling out Form I-539, which is used to extend or change nonimmigrant status.

If you submitted your application on or after October 1, you won’t have to pay this fee; it’s already removed from the cost. But if you applied before this date, the USCIS may still ask you for biometric data, such as fingerprints or photographs, at their discretion.

Additional conditions for fee exemption

If you’ve accidentally paid the biometric fee separately from Form I-539’s filing fee, the USCIS will refund the biometric fee. If you’ve combined the two fees into a single payment, the USCIS may consider it an incorrect filing and reject the entire application. Thus, make sure to pay only the filing fee if you’re applying on or after October 1, 2023.

Who benefits from this update?

This biometric fee exemption applies to all Form I-539 applicants filing on or after October 1, 2023. This encompasses those seeking H-4, E, and L-2 non-immigrant categories. The USCIS had already suspended biometric requirements as of September 30, 2023.

What is the rationale behind the fee exemption?

According to the USCIS Fiscal Year 2022 Progress Report, plans were in place to remove the biometric services fee. The USCIS aims to streamline processes and thus eliminate this fee for Form I-539 applicants.

Before this change, the USCIS required applicants to provide biometric information like digital signatures, fingerprints, and photographs for background checks and identity verification. After receiving the application and fees, the USCIS reviewed the documents and carried out these background checks to maintain the immigration system’s integrity.

What are the steps to secure an H4 visa?

Securing an H4 visa involves a series of important steps. To maximize your chances of getting an H4 visa, be sure to do the following:

  • Confirm eligibility – Validate your relationship to the H1B visa holder by furnishing necessary documents like a birth certificate or marriage certificate.
  • Fill out Form I-539 – Complete this form accurately, either on your own or with the assistance of a green card lawyer in NYC. This form can be submitted via mail or online.
  • Assemble all the required documents – Collate all the necessary paperwork, such as proof of your relationship with the H1B visa holder and the current visa status of the H4 applicant. Form I-539 instructions include a detailed list of these required documents.
  • Pay the application fee – Even with the biometric fee exemption, there’s still a filing fee for Form I-539. Make sure you send it to the correct USCIS service center.

For additional assistance and legal guidance in navigating the H4 visa process, a green card lawyer in NYC can be invaluable. A lawyer can review your documentation, offer expert advice, and represent you in any legal proceedings.

If you’re in need of specialized help, consider reaching out to Berd & Klauss, PLLC, by calling 212-461-7152.