Green card applicants are required to provide certain metrics when they apply to become U.S. residents or citizens. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) uses these metrics to determine whether or not the applicant has an existing record that may prevent them from meeting requirements. This information is collected from applicants at a biometrics appointment.
A USCIS biometrics appointment is a routine step of the green card application process that helps check if applicants have relevant immigration violations or a serious criminal record.
Applicants will have their photographs, fingerprints, and signatures taken to be compared against the FBI’s criminal database and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) database of non-citizens with immigration violations.
There will be no blood or DNA tests as a part of the green card biometrics appointment. If the visa application relies on a blood relationship between family members, the applicant may be required to provide a DNA sample. This is typically only necessary if there are doubts about the relationship in question. A USCIS DNA test is not meant to accomplish the same objectives as a biometrics appointment.
Once you have filed your green card application, the biometrics appointment is the first major milestone on the road to being approved. Sometimes you may receive an appointment notice before you have a confirmation from USCIS that your application was processed. The notice will tell you when your appointment has been scheduled, where it is, and what you need to do/bring.
As you prepare for your visit to the USCIS Application Support Center (ASC), remember that only the family member who is currently applying for a green card is required to attend the appointment. Sponsors are allowed to come along, but their attendance is not necessary.
The applicant should be sure to bring the following documents:
There is an $85 fee for biometrics appointments; you should have already included this in your green card application package. Therefore you should not need to bring any additional payment to your ASC appointment.
Do not bring any food, electronic devices, or cameras into the fingerprint appointment area. Do not bring any type of weapon to the appointment for any reason. If you are wondering whether or not something could be viewed as a weapon, do not bring it.
If you are unable to attend the chosen appointment date, notify the USCIS Contact Center immediately by calling (800) 375-5283. You must put in a request to change before the date and time of your original appointment. You must also have a good reason for rescheduling your appointment.
If you cannot establish a good cause, or do not call before the date and time of the appointment, USCIS may choose not to reschedule your appointment. If your appointment is not successfully rescheduled—and you do not attend—USCIS will view your application as abandoned and likely deny it as a result.
If you are sick at the time of the appointment, you should reschedule your appointment in the same manner as if you could not attend. If you have an ongoing medical condition that prevents you from leaving the hospital or your home, you can request a mobile/homebound appointment. To apply for a mobile biometrics/homebound appointment, follow the instructions in the section of your appointment notice that addresses individuals with disabilities.
The letter that USCIS sends is an “Application Support Center Appointment Notice,” also known as a Form I-797C, Notice of Action. Along with the date, time, and location of your appointment, this notice will also include an ASC biometric notice code in the top right corner.
This code informs the applicant of what biometrics will be needed at the appointment. Here are the possible values that may be indicated:
There are multiple ASCs throughout the country. If your notice requires you to visit one that is not convenient, you may be able to change or reschedule the location. If you are at all capable of reaching the scheduled USCIS biometrics location, it may be beneficial to minimize the risk of something going wrong during the rescheduling process.
When you arrive at the ASC, you will submit your biometrics on specific machines designed to encode and store biometrics. If you are already in the U.S., you will attend your appointment at a nearby USCIS office.
Individuals already living in the country will undergo this process relatively early in the process. Individuals applying from abroad will complete their biometrics appointment at whichever U.S. consulate is responsible for processing their green card application after the green card interview has already been scheduled.
You (or the applicant who is applying for a green card) will have your fingerprints and photo taken. You will then give your digital signature confirming that all the information submitted on your behalf is true, complete, and correct at the time of filing. This includes all documents that are a part of or in support of your application, petition, or request.
While you may have to wait for your appointment, the actual process usually only takes around 15-20 minutes. The workers who take your photo and fingerprints have no information about your application, and cannot answer any questions for you. They are oftentimes not even USCIS employees, just contractors who do not know about the immigration process.
There will be no interview or extra steps during this appointment. If there is an issue with your biometrics, you will hear about it after the fact.
The appointment should be relatively quick and straightforward, but you should take the proper steps to ensure that you make it on time. Depending on the location of your appointment, you may need to travel long distances to be there.
Multiple other applicants may also have the same appointment time as you, meaning individuals will be let in on a first-come, first-served basis. To minimize delays, you should plan accordingly to arrive early. Missing your appointment will result in additional wait times.
When providing your digital signature, USCIS requires any individual 14 years of age or older to give their own. Children under 14 years old do not need to give their signature on an application, but may choose to do so during their biometrics appointment if they are capable. Parents and legal guardians can also sign on their child’s behalf.
After you have successfully completed your biometrics appointment, you will receive a stamp on your appointment notice confirming your attendance. This document serves as proof that you attended. Keep track of it in case USCIS cannot find your records.
As for your biometrics, they will be sent to the FBI and DHS for review. Once your identity has been verified, USCIS will receive a report detailing any crimes or immigration violations you have committed that may make you ineligible for the benefit you seek. If you have none of these issues, you will move on to the next step.
You may not hear from USCIS again for several weeks—or months. Some applications will require an interview as the next step while others may only require an interview to resolve issues.
If you do not receive a biometrics or receipt notice within two months of submitting your application, USCIS may have inaccurate contact information for you. Contact USCIS at (800) 375-5283 as soon as possible to reconcile this issue before it is too late. The USCIS contact system involves many electronic voices and may be frustrating, but it is a necessary step if this occurs.
If you receive a receipt notice but not a biometrics notice, it is possible that your appointment notice was lost in the mail. If this is the case, you can submit an online case inquiry e-request to USCIS using the case number on your receipt or call by phone to ask for a new appointment date.
The final situation in which you may not receive a biometrics appointment notice is when USCIS already has your biometric information on file. If you have already been to an appointment within the last 15 months, you may not need to attend another. However, you should contact USCIS for clarification if you are not sure.
The exact amount of time it takes to get a biometrics appointment will vary depending on the region of the country being applied from, the type of application, and the current USCIS workload. USCIS typically schedules the initial ASC appointment between three to eight weeks after your form is filed.
Application Support Centers are not able to reschedule the appointment more than 30 days out from the requested date. If you must reschedule your initial fingerprint appointment, your new date will be within a 30-day timeframe from the date they received your request.
Not necessarily, as plenty of green card applicants are still approved with criminal records. There are some crimes that make an applicant ineligible to enter the U.S., but the important part is that your criminal record is properly disclosed.
The primary goal of a biometrics appointment is ensuring that applicants have accurately and adequately communicated any existing criminal record. A good immigration attorney can help you disclose the necessary information with the appropriate documentation.
If you have a criminal record or any prior violations which you are concerned about, we recommend reaching out to a lawyer before proceeding with your application.
Do not panic if you receive a second biometrics appointment notice. If there is a problem with something you did—or an issue with your application that might lead to a denial—you would not be called back to an ASC.
There are two reasons applicants are commonly asked to return for a second biometrics appointment:
The biometrics appointment should be an easy and fast step toward getting your green card, but if you miss it, then you will suffer consequences. If you must reschedule, do it ahead of time, and if you must attend a second meeting, do so without objection.
If you are looking to give immigration biometrics without an appointment letter, you may be out of luck. While USCIS application centers previously accepted early walk-in appointments for scheduled applicants, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a rule change.
While your particular ASC might still accommodate you if they wish to, it is very unlikely at this time. If you are traveling abroad or have a reason you would like to move up your appointment, your best option is to try and reschedule by calling the ASC Support Center.
If you are still uncertain about any part of the immigration process, reach out to a Chicago immigration attorney at Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. for legal assistance. Our lawyers have the experience and knowledge to help you apply and keep your records organized throughout the whole process.
Whether you are trying to figure out the next steps for your specific case or need advice about disclosing your criminal record, reach out to our law firm today.