Why is My H-4 Application Taking So Long?

In March, 2019, USCIS announced that H-4 applications will require that all applicants be fingerprinted as part of the application process. With this change, USCIS has also changed the I-539 form used for the H-4 application, has added a new form, form I-539A for dependents included on the application to sign, and requires an $85 biometrics fee for each H-4 applicant, including dependents.

It has been about six months since this change took place. Here are some frequently asked questions about this change with the H-4 application and biometrics process:

1. Why is it taking so long for the H-4 extension/application to be approved?

Before this change took place, it used to be that if an H-1B petition was filed through premium processing, USCIS would process the H-4 application through premium processing too, as a courtesy. Now that USCIS requires the H-4 applicants to be fingerprinted, USCIS is not able to quickly process the H-4 application. Therefore they are no longer being included in the H-1B premium processing as they were before. Even if you do not use premium processing, we are seeing that in general the H-4 processing is taking longer than it did before. This is due at least in part to the new fingerprinting (biometrics) requirement, which of course takes time to complete.

2. Does the H-1B beneficiary need to go for fingerprinting too?
The H-4 applicant should receive a notice telling them when and where to go for the fingerprinting process. The H-1B beneficiary does not have to be fingerprinted. Right now this requirement applies only to the H-4 applicants (regardless of age).

3. What should I take to the fingerprinting appointment? What should I expect at the fingerprinting appointment?
You will need to take your appointment notice and ID. Please also refer to the appointment notice as it may list additional documentation to bring to the appointment. The appointment itself is usually quick and straightforward. This is not a time for the USCIS officer to conduct an interview or ask extensive questions. Instead, it’s simply a matter of providing your fingerprints.

4. What if I cannot attend the appointment?
If you are not able to go to the scheduled biometrics appointment, you will need to either
a) Go to the application support center before your appointment date (with the letter in hand) to have the fingerprints taken, or
b) Ask USCIS to reschedule your appointment. The rescheduling process is outlined on the appointment notice.
Please note that some application support centers are willing to accommodate walk-ins if the center is not busy at the time. This varies by local office, so please confirm with your immigration lawyer if you are not sure what to do.

5. If I applied for an H-4 EAD, when will I receive that?
The H-4 application of course must be approved before the H-4 EAD will be approved. Therefore if you applied for an H-4 EAD at the same time as the H-4 extension, you would receive the H-4 EAD sometime after (or possibly at the same time) the H-4 itself is approved. Processing times vary, but you can check the online USCIS processing times for an estimate, or you can ask the immigration lawyer assisting with your case.

US immigration processes and policies are changing almost daily, it seems. It is critical to stay on top of these changes to reduce the chance of delays or denials, and our team is here to help! We are immigration lawyers located in Richmond, VA but we serve clients throughout the U.S. and around the world. Contact us today to get started or to learn more about our services! You can call us at 804-396-3412 or send us an email to info@sumnerimmigration.com.