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Important U.S. Immigration Updates: Expansion of EAD; Form I-539 Biometrics Exemption; Visa-Free Travel to U.S. from Israel.

A Roundup of Important U.S. Immigration Updates

Several agencies have announced new policies or requirements this fall. Here is a roundup of some vital updates.

Expansion of Employment Authorization for Adjustment of Status Applicants

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy Manual is being updated to reflect an increase to the maximum validity period for employment authorization documents (EAD). Individuals applying for employment authorization on the basis of a pending adjustment of status application are now eligible for a work authorization period of five years instead of the previously granted two-year time period. This is a welcome change designed to alleviate the burden of lengthy processing times and the backlog of pending EAD cases.

Biometrics Exemption for Form I-539

Earlier this year, the USCIS announced the extension of its temporary biometrics submission requirements for certain applicants filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status for H-4, L-2, and E nonimmigrant status until Sept. 30, 2023. Simultaneously, the USCIS announced plans to permanently remove biometric requirements for all I-539 applicants.

As of Oct. 1, 2023, that change has gone into effect, meaning all I-539 applicants, who filed on or after Oct. 1, are exempt from the biometric services fees. This fee exemption does not apply to applicants who filed prior to the effective date and may be required to attend a biometrics appointment. Additionally, for applicants who filed on or after Oct. 1, 2023, the USCIS may determine biometrics are still required and the applicant will receive a notice containing their biometric appointment details. 

Applicants should be aware the USCIS will reject Form I-539 applications for incorrect filing when I-539 filing fees are combined in one paper payment with the biometric services fee. However, for instances where the filing fees are submitted separately, the agency will still process the I-539 application and return the biometric service fee.

Visa-Free Travel to U.S. for Eligible Citizens and Nationals of Israel 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently announced the start of visa-free travel for short-term visits to the United States for eligible Israeli citizens and nationals. This announcement follows Israel’s admission into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.  Effective Oct. 19, 2023, eligible Israeli citizens and nationals may apply for authorization to travel to the U.S. through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

This development enables successful applicants to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a U.S. visa. Israeli citizens and nationals with valid B-1/B-2 visas may continue to use them for business and tourist travel to the U.S.

However, using ESTA is not the best solution for all individuals. Obtaining and traveling based upon a visa may still be the best option for certain travelers, including those who seek to stay in the U.S. beyond the 90-day period or those who may be interested in changing their status from that of a visitor.

This article was co-authored by Tieranny Cutler, independent contract attorney.


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