DHS Update: Temporary Suspension of Biometrics for H-4, L-2, and E Nonimmigrants


  • Effective May 17, 2021, USCIS will temporarily suspend the biometrics submission requirement for certain applicants filing Form I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, requesting an extension of stay in or change of status to H-4, L-2, and E derivative status. USCIS said it will adjudicate these Form I-539 applications based on biographic information and related background checks without capturing fingerprints and a photograph.
  • USCIS stated the suspension is expected to last through May 17, 2023.
  • Please note that the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) is unable to overturn an expedite request that USCIS has denied. 

The CIS Ombudsman would like to remind customers that the option to file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization online is only available to F-1 nonimmigrants who fall into one of the following categories: 

  • (c)(3)(A) – Pre-completion OPT;
  • (c)(3)(B) – Post-completion OPT; and
  • (c)(3)(C) – 24-month extension for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students 

If the applicant’s actual basis for employment authorization does not fall within one of the above-referenced categories, regardless of what is checked, USCIS has stated that, if filed on or after April 15, 2021, it will deny the application and the fee will not be refunded. 

Applicants Filing Form I-765 for Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

  • USCIS has extended certain flexibilities for foreign students (F-1 nonimmigrants) affected by delayed Form I-765 receipt notices. These flexibilities apply only to applications received by USCIS on or after Oct. 1, 2020, through May 1, 2021.
  • The CIS Ombudsman recognizes that USCIS has made progress in addressing these issues and is pleased that the agency has implemented the above-mentioned flexibilities.
  • The CIS Ombudsman provided informal recommendations to USCIS regarding lockbox delays in issuing receipts for Forms I-765, communicating the significant adverse impact on nonimmigrant students. These delays were caused by various factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic; a rise in cases for certain benefit requests, which led to an increase in mail volume; a reduction in contract services; and delays at the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Please refer to the USCIS website for additional information related to OPT for F-1 students and instructions to file Form I-765. 

Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments 

  • If your ASC appointment was scheduled and then cancelled due to COVID-19, and was not rescheduled within 45 days, you may file a request for case assistance with the CIS Ombudsman.
  • If your ASC appointment was scheduled for a location other than the one closest to the address on file with USCIS at the time the appointment was set, and you are unable to travel to the designated location, and you have already asked USCIS to reschedule your appointment (but no action has been taken within 45 days from the request), you may file a request for case assistance with the CIS Ombudsman.
  • USCIS has indicated it will not expedite ASC appointments, except in extremely rare circumstances.