What Happens at a USCIS Biometrics Appointment
When you apply for a benefit from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — such as a work permit, citizenship, green card or even a green card renewal — a standard part of the process is a biometrics appointment (also known as a biometrics screening). It may sound scary, but it shouldn’t be a concern for most people. However, it’s important to understand what happens at the appointment, what to expect, and who should be concerned.
Biometric Screening Defined
The technical definition of “biometrics” means that a person’s unique physical and other traits are detected and recorded as a means of confirming identity. In simple terms, USCIS will obtain your photograph, fingerprints and have you sign your name. This process confirms your identity so that USCIS provides benefits to the correct person and facilitates the necessary criminal background check.
In rare circumstance, USCIS may request DNA testing for immigration cases where applicants are either from developing countries and do not have birth certificates, or when there are suspicious discrepancies within the case.
USCIS Biometrics Appointment
You will receive the biometrics appointment notice after you submit your application or petition, and the appointment will take place before you receive any benefits or a card in the mail. The letter will arrive as an “Application Support Center (ASC) Appointment Notice” (Form I-797C, Notice of Action) and will include information about the date, time and location for your ASC appointment. The appointment itself takes most people 15-30 minutes.
USCIS recommends that you attend the biometrics appointment at the Application Support Center that has been scheduled for you. If the location of this ASC is not convenient for you, some applicants have been able to reschedule the appointment at an alternative ASC. A change in location is at the discretion of USCIS. For a list of ASCs, see the USCIS Service and Office Locator.
Again, USCIS will schedule the time and location for you. USCIS recommends that you appear at the ASC which has been assigned to you.
ASC Biometrics Notice Codes
You may notice that your ASC Biometrics Appointment Notice includes a code in the top right part of the letter. The code is intended to indicate the type of biometrics processing to be performed. The possible values are:
- Code 1 – fingerprinting for 10 prints only
- Code 2 – photo, signature and index finger press-print
- Code 3 – photo, signature, index finger press-print and fingerprinting for 10 prints
Rescheduling a Biometrics Appointment
It is generally recommended that you attend the appointment that is scheduled for you. However, you may reschedule the appointment if necessary. Your appointment notice will have instructions on how you can reschedule. Typically, you will need to send USCIS a written letter to let them know of your inability to attend the scheduled appointment and a requested date that you will be available.
Depending on the type of application, region of the country, and USCIS workload, the biometrics appointment could be scheduled on day within 3-8 weeks of filing your USCIS form. It is important to understand that USCIS Application Support Centers cannot reschedule the appointment for more than 30 days and are instructed to provide applicants with a reschedule date within a 30-day time frame from the date of the reschedule request.
It is likely that the application/petition you have filed will be denied if biometrics is not satisfied within a reasonable time frame as scheduled by USCIS.
Families with Biometrics Appointments
If you have more than one person in your family that requires a biometrics screening, it’s more convenient to have the scheduled together. USCIS will attempt to schedule your family’s biometrics appointments together. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
If you have received your appointment notice, but your dependent(s) have not, it may be possible for your family members to attend your appointment. The USCIS ASC may agree to capture their biometrics on the same day even if they do not have scheduled appointments. The decision to combine the biometric screenings is at the discretion of the ASC. The ASC may refuse to do so.
Children with Biometrics Appointments
Generally, children under 14 years of age are exempt from biometrics fee. However, your child must still appear at the ASC if a biometrics appointment has been scheduled by the USCIS. You cannot ignore this notice. It’s likely that your child is being called in for a “Code 2” biometrics appointment. For children who are adjusting status, this information is necessary for the generation of the permanent resident card (also known as a green card).
How to Prepare for the USCIS Biometrics Appointment
When you get your biometric services appointment notification, it will also include a list of items to bring to the appointment. In addition to the appointment notice itself (Form I-797C), you will be required to bring photo identification. Typically, acceptable documents include:
- Permanent resident card (green card)
- Passport or national photo identification issued by your home country
- Driver’s license
- Military photo identification
- State-issued photo identification card
You may also be requested to bring other documents such as a legal name change decree, marriage certificate and birth certificate. This depends on your case, so read your appointment instructions carefully.
When you appear for your biometrics appointment, USCIS will capture your fingerprints, photograph and signature digitally on a LiveScan machine. When it is time to sign your name, USCIS will ask you to attest to the truth of the following statement:
The language is only displayed in English or Spanish. If you require a different foreign language, USCIS recommends that you select the appropriate language translation and review it before you appear for your ASC appointment.
When to Be Concerned About a Biometrics Appointment
Most people don’t need to worry about the USCIS biometrics appointment and subsequent FBI background check.
However, if you think you might have a criminal record, contact an immigration lawyer before going to a USCIS biometrics appointment. (If you think you might have a criminal record, you should contact an immigration lawyer before filing any USCIS form.) Some crimes will make you ineligible for immigration benefits. A lawyer can request a background check before USCIS does and deal with it as necessary.
After a Biometrics Appointment
Once you have completed your biometrics appointment, you will be given a stamp on your appointment notice confirming that you attended. Keep this document safe. It serves as proof if USCIS cannot find its record stating that you attended the appointment.
The next step depends on the type of application you filed. Some, like marriage cases, require an interview; others, such as employment-based petitions, only require interviews when there are issues that need further inquiry.
If you get another biometrics appointment notice in the following weeks, don’t panic. This is usually the result of smudged prints, and fingerprints will need to be retaken to complete the background check. USCIS will not charge an additional fee.
Depending on your application type and the service center processing it, it may be several weeks (or months) before you hear from USCIS again. Remember, you can always check the status of your case online.
Additional Biometrics Appointments
There are many reasons USCIS may require an additional biometrics appointment for you. Biometrics data is considered valid for a period of 15 months. Therefore, it’s very common for applicants to attend multiple biometrics appointment. This can occur if an application or petition is pending for several months or the person has requested a separate immigration benefit from USCIS.