What to Expect 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. Regardless, it's important to understand what happens at your USCIS appointment, what to expect, and who should be concerned.
USCIS Biometrics Appointment Explained
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. USCIS will submit your biometrics to the FBI for the criminal background check. They will not draw blood nor will they gather DNA for the purposes of DNA testing. A biometrics screening is not an interview. Therefore, you can expect this process to be quick. You don’t have to bring any payment with you to the biometrics appointment if you have already paid the biometrics fee(s) with your application (this is usually the case).
Application Support Center (ASC) Appointment Notice
USCIS will mail you the biometrics appointment notice after you submit your application or petition. 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 to 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. If you are outside the United States, the appointment will be at a U.S. embassy or consulate near 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 – The appointment is limited to collecting fingerprints for all 10 digits. USCIS forwards the fingerprints to the FBI for a background check.
- Code 2 – Personnel will collect a photo, signature and index finger press print. This type of processing is typical for beneficiaries who receive a card like a permanent resident card or employment authorization document (EAD).
- Code 3 – Personnel will collect a photo, signature, index finger press print, as well as fingerprints for all 10 digits. Code 3 is a combination of Codes 1 and 2.
USCIS generally recommends that you attend the appointment that they schedule for you. However, you may reschedule the appointment if necessary. USCIS no longer accepts written requests to reschedule the appointment. Instead, you must call USCIS at 1-800-375-5283 (TTY 1-800-767-1833) before the date and time of your original appointment and establish good cause for rescheduling. If you fail to call before your scheduled appointment or fail to establish good cause, USCIS may not reschedule the appointment. If you fail to appear for your originally scheduled biometric services appointment and the appointment is not rescheduled, they will consider the related application, petition, or request abandoned and, as a result, USCIS may deny it.
Depending on the type of application, region of the country, and workload, USCIS may initially schedule the biometrics appointment on day within 3 to 8 weeks of filing your USCIS form. USCIS Application Support Centers cannot reschedule the appointment for more than 30 days. Therefore, it's likely they will a reschedule date within a 30-day time frame from the date of the reschedule request.
Rescheduling your appointment will delay your case. It is likely that USCIS will deny the application or petition you filed if biometrics is not satisfied within a reasonable time frame. Therefore, it's generally best to complete the biometrics screening as soon as possible.
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 them 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.
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 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 must take government-issued 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
When you appear for your biometrics appointment, USCIS will digitally capture your fingerprints, photograph and signature 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. USCIS will process this information through the FBI database in order to check for any criminal records.
However, if you think you might have a criminal record or past immigration violations, 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 the Biometrics Appointment
Before you leave the biometrics appointment, personnel should provide 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, may 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.
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