I-539 Applications for TD Visa Status No Longer Eligible for Premium Processing

Earlier this year USCIS revised its I-539 form, which among other things, is utilized by TN visa worker’s family members to change to, or to extend their TD visa status from within the U.S. These I-539 applications are normally filed concurrently as part of the TN visa worker’s I-129 petition to change to, or to extend his/her TN visa status, or to change employers.

In order to avoid lengthy processing times of the I-129 petition, particularly in change of employer scenarios, and employer will request premium processing of the I-129 petition in order to obtain a review in 15 calendar days. Historically, as a “courtesy”, USCIS would also review any associated I-539 applications within this time frame as well. (I-539 forms were not otherwise eligible for premium processing.)

As a result of the revisions to the I-539 application, which now require applicants to attend a biometrics appointment, USCIS has indicated that it will no longer premium process these concurrently filed I-539 applications. Because of the new biometrics requirement, which generally takes at least 3 weeks to complete, USCIS cannot meet the required 15-day premium processing timeframe. USCIS will now separate I-539 applications from their I-129 petitions, and process the I-539 applications in the regular processing queue. See Practice Alert: Form I-539 No Longer Eligible for “Courtesy” Premium Processing, AILA Doc. No. 19071532 (July 15, 2019).

Due to the extended processing times for I-539 applications now, depending on their circumstances (e.g. maintenance of status requirements, travel needs, etc.), family members seeking TD visa status may wish to consider obtaining their TD status at the border (Canadian citizens) or at the U.S. consulate (Mexican citizens) as an alternative to filing the I-539 application. In these alternate routes, family members must wait until the TN visa worker’s I-129 petition is approved before seeking TD status at the border or consulate, as applicable.