1.3 Million People Waiting for Biometrics Appointments
November 24, 2020
On November 19, the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) Office of the Ombudsman held a webinar to discuss the CIS’ current state of operations relating to in-person services and appointments, given fiscal challenges and COVID-19 constraints.
Our firm attended this webinar, and we want to share the following relating to biometrics appointments:
Due to COVID-19, 280,000 biometric appointments were cancelled earlier this year. Not all have been rescheduled. During the webinar, the USCIS stated that they have 62,000 biometric appointments to reschedule from earlier this year. Prior to COVID-19, biometrics appointments were issued within 2-4 weeks, but currently the timeframe for appointment notices is unknown though generally fist in, first out. The USCIS reported that currently 1.3 million applicants are waiting for biometrics to be scheduled.
The requirement of biometrics for H-4 and other spouse categories went into effect in March 2019. Since then, H-4 spouses who apply for extensions of status and Employment Authorization Documents (EAD) have been negatively impacted, as the USCIS no longer processes the H-1B together with the H-4 extensions. This means that the H-4 extension can wait months before the biometrics appointment, and the EAD will not be processed until after the H-4 extension is granted. The entire process for obtaining or renewing an EAD can take well over six months. As of now, there is no premium processing available for H-4 extensions or EAD applications.
The law which funds the government through December 11, 2020 included a provision to expand premium processing to H-4 (Form I-539) and EAD (Form I-765) but the USCIS will need to implement this portion of the law and do rulemaking to set new fees for these types of petitions. This expansion is not viewed as a priority by the current administration and it may take some time for the next administration to set their immigration priorities.