H4, H4 EAD Premium Processing

Updated June 22, 2021 The USCIS has suspended the requirement for biometrics for certain Form I-539 applicants, effective May 17, 2021. This temporary suspension will apply to nonimmigrant applicants who file Form I-539 (H-4, L-2, E1, E2, E3).

The Biden Administration released its Spring 2021 Regulatory Agenda, which included a Premium Processing Adjustment item with a target final date of September 2021. As a result, we may see some activity for H4 and H4 EAD premium Processing by September 2021.

Bill HR 8337 was passed by the United States Congress, and it includes provisions for H4 visa extensions, COS, and H4 EAD. The Public Law 116 – 159 was also signed by the former President on October 1, 2020 but the USCIS has yet to take up the signed law and publish the corresponding regulation.

Next Steps: USCIS will publish a regulation on the federal register to implement premium processing for H4 and H4 EAD. USCIS must solicit public input as part of the rule-making process before implementing the changes.

Prior to the Trump administration’s implementation of H-4 biometrics, if an H-1B, H-4, and H4EAD application package was submitted alongside an H-1B as Premium Processing, USCIS would approve all three at the same time.

USCIS will collect fees for all three steps(H1B, H4, H4-EAD) once Premium Processing for H4 and EAD is implemented.

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Updated May 13, 2021, It’s official now. Effective May 17, 2021, USCIS Temporarily Suspends Biometrics Requirement for Certain Form I-539 Applicants. This temporary suspension will apply to applicants filing Form I-539( H-4, L-2, E1, E2, E3) nonimmigrant status.

Updated May 4 2021, There has been many lawsuits to expedite H4EAD approval. In one of the lawsuit in US Court, Immigration Attorney Wasden Banias confirmed that USCIS will remove biometrics for all H4 and L2 applications by May 17,2021. This should help many skilled immigrant women to continue the Job.

Updated February 2021, H1B is approved in Premium Processing however H4 and H4 EAD is still in ‘case was received’ status and the current H4 and H4 EAD are expiring/expired. This is the status quo for many dependents living in the US. 

During Trump Administration back in February/March 2019 made changes to the extension of the nonimmigrant status change application process and added biometrics part of the approval process . This essentially delayed the overall processing of H4 and H4 EAD applications.

The delay added critical challenges to livelihood for H1B dependents in the US, especially for the people waiting in the Green card backlog.

  • Job Loss
  • Drivers License renewal
  • Travel outside US.
  • Insurance.

During Obama administration in 2015, an H4EAD was introduced that allows H4 dependents can work in the US under certain conditions, but these delays are not really serving the purpose. Recently, DHS has withdrawn the regulation to rescind H-4 EAD brought during Trump Administration however, delays in H4EAD processing is an issue that is often ignored.

There are a couple of options people are trying and was successful in some cases.

  • After the H1B petition is approved, some people travel to their home country and get a visa stamped while H4 petition is pending. Also, withdraw the H4 petition after coming back US.
    • There is a caveat of finding Visa appointments as regular processing is limited because of Trump Immigration Ban.
  • To expedite the approval process, some people filed lawsuit against USCIS & were successful with an attorney fee.

The current processing time for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (I-539) in California Center is about 2 yrs/24 months and varies in Texas/ Vermont Processing Center.

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The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (CIS Ombudsman) is dedicated to improving the quality of citizenship and immigration services delivered to the public by providing individual case assistance, as well as making recommendations to improve the administration of immigration benefits by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The USCIS Ombudsman has asked USCIS to look into the significant processing times discrepancy for I-539s pending at the California Service Center. 

Removing Biometrics in H4 processing and H4 EAD Premium Processing implementation are the ways the new DHS Administration can give a full life to H4 EAD. 

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