What Are Biometrics for USCIS?
Your Complete Guide to the Process
USCIS requires immigrants to submit important biographical information throughout the immigration process. One of these requirements is to attend a biometrics appointment, where biometric data will be collected from you as a part of the immigration process. Here’s what you need to know about this appointment and how to prepare.
What Are Biometrics?
Biometrics is the collection of unique identifying data about a person. It’s usually used for the purposes of security. If you use your fingerprint or a face scan to unlock your smartphone, you’re using a biometric security practice.
What Are Biometrics for USCIS?
USCIS biometrics are simple. They take your fingerprints, take a picture of your face, and ask you to sign your name on a document. It’s a quick process designed to collect data that USCIS will send to relevant agencies. These agencies will verify your identity and ensure you don’t have a criminal background.
There is no interview process during a biometrics appointment, and no decisions will be made at your appointment. You’ll be in and out of the office very quickly. You won’t get any information back until your biometrics have been processed and USCIS has received the data.
Who Needs Biometrics for USCIS?
USCIS reserves the right to request biometrics from anyone applying for an immigrant visa, a green card, or naturalization. They also require that permanent residents seeking re-entry permits attend a biometrics appointment before they leave for their trip.
USCIS will inform you when it’s necessary to schedule a biometrics appointment. It’s best to attend these appointments as soon as possible.
USCIS needs time to process your biometrics before it can make a decision. If you wait until the last minute, if you’re late, or if you reschedule your biometrics appointment, you could delay your case or process.
There are some exceptions. Petitioners for certain visas, like Form I-526E, Immigrant Petition by Regional Center Investor, do not need to submit biometrics. Unless you’ve been specifically told otherwise, it’s best to assume you must submit your biometrics.
Do You Have To Go to Your Biometrics Appointment?
You have to go if a biometrics appointment is required for your petition or application. The process is mandatory. If you miss your biometrics appointment or refuse to attend a biometrics appointment, your case can be denied by USCIS.
How Much Do Biometrics for USCIS Cost?
The biometrics appointment fee is $85. The fee is due at the time you file your petition or application. This fee comes in addition to the fee for filing any petitions or permits you’ve filed. It isn’t included in the filing fee.
Some foreign nationals may be eligible for a fee waiver if they cannot pay the $85 biometrics fee. USCIS will most likely waive fees for foreign nationals impacted by disaster or immigrants with special status.
Where Do I Go for My Biometrics Appointment?
You’ll attend your biometrics appointment at your nearest Application Support Center (ACS). This isn’t the same building or office you visited when you spoke with USCIS in person or attended immigration-related interviews.
The specific purpose of an Application Support Center is to collect biometric data. The people who work at the ACS are not USCIS immigration officers. They don’t have access to any information about your case. They cannot answer questions or make decisions relating to your case.
If you have any questions about the immigration process or your case status, you need to ask USCIS directly. The staff at the ACS are not equipped to help you, and they won’t be able to find the information you need.
What Do You Need To Bring to a Biometrics Appointment?
All you need to bring to your biometrics appointment is your photo identification and the notice for your appointment.
You may not be allowed to bring any electronics into the building. You may need to leave your phone in the car or at home. You won’t be allowed to bring food or drinks into the building. The staff will inform you if you’re carrying any restricted items.
Should You Bring a Lawyer to a Biometrics Appointment?
Lawyers can play a significant role in the immigration process. They can review your paperwork to ascertain that everything has been completed properly. This can help you avoid delays in processing your case. It can also help you avoid a denial of your case in certain circumstances.
Your lawyer’s help is most useful when dealing directly with USCIS regarding your case. Your biometrics appointment isn’t with USCIS but with an independent agency that works alongside USCIS. Your appointment’s outcome can impact your case, but the appointment itself isn’t part of your case.
Your lawyer may be permitted to attend your biometrics appointment with you, but it is not necessary. You aren’t being asked any questions. You’re only submitting mandatory biometric data. There’s no reason for your lawyer to be present at your appointment.
What If I Need To Reschedule My Biometrics Appointment?
USCIS would prefer that you didn’t reschedule your biometrics appointment. If you’re seriously ill, they will allow you to reschedule to avoid infecting others. They may also allow you to reschedule due to a serious emergency that impacts your health or safety.
If you’re running late to your biometrics appointment, it’s better to show up late than it is to reschedule. You’ll spend some time waiting anyway. If the office is busy, you may not technically be as late as you think. Your local ACS will try to honor your appointment as long as they aren’t too busy or you don’t get there close to the end of office hours.
What To Expect at an Appointment for Biometrics for USCIS
You should show up for your biometrics appointment at the required time. There may be other people who were given the same appointment time as you were. The process moves quickly once it begins, so ACS is often fully booked.
You will receive a short document with your appointment notice to fill out before you arrive. They will photograph your face, collect your fingerprints, and ask you for an electronic signature. The whole process usually takes less than 20 minutes.
When you’re done, they’ll stamp your appointment notice. This stamp serves as proof that you showed up for your appointment. Keep your stamped notice in case USCIS requests proof that you attended your appointment.
What To Expect After a Biometrics Appointment?
The rest of the process will move on without your involvement. The Application Support Center will send your fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for criminal background checks. Your fingerprints will also be sent to other government agencies for review. Your fingerprints will be compared against people’s fingerprints who have crossed the United States border without documentation or overstayed their visas. It will also be checked against criminal databases.
The analysis of your biometrics will be sent to USCIS once it’s been completed. USCIS will use that information to make a decision.
What Happens When Your Background Is Cleared?
If the data from your biometrics appointment doesn’t turn up anything concerning and you’ve successfully completed all of your other immigration requirements, your petition or permit will likely be approved. You’ll complete the rest of the process and requirements specific to the permit or petition you’ve filed.
If your biometrics appointment was a requirement for a re-entry permit, you can leave the country. You must ask USCIS to send your re-entry permit to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest your destination. You’ll be able to pick up your permit from there.
What If Your Background Isn’t Cleared?
If USCIS or the FBI finds something concerning after completing your biometrics appointment, you will typically be given an opportunity to address USCIS’s concerns. Your permit or petition will likely be denied if you cannot explain or the findings trigger a ground to bar you from immigration benefits. You can file an appeal or explain your case, but it’s very difficult to request and win an appeal. You’ll need the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney if you intend to appeal a USCIS decision.
Do You Need Legal Assistance With Your USCIS Case?
Most people won’t encounter any issues with the biometrics process. Unless you have been convicted of a crime, crossed the border without documentation, overstayed a visa, or are wanted for a crime in a different country, your biometrics appointment won’t give USCIS a reason to deny your case.
If your biometric data check results cause USCIS to deny your case, an immigration attorney can help you file an appeal. You can contact us for a consultation to review the details of your immigration case. After review, one of our thorough immigration lawyers will inform you of your options.