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What is the purpose? What to expect?
Those who are filing for Citizenship, Asylum, Legal Permanent Resident Status, or other immigration benefits, are required to attend a biometrics appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to allow the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to gather photos, fingerprints, and other information in order to process a criminal background check.
In a majority of cases, there is a fee associated with this service and you pay this at the time of the submission of your petition. Once USCIS has accepted your petition, you will typically receive a biometrics appointment notice four (4) to six (6) weeks after the petition has been accepted. The appointment notice will give you a date, time, and place for the appointment. You are required to attend the appointment. Below are some frequently asked questions (and responses to them) related to the biometrics appointment.
What happens at the biometrics appointment?
At the biometrics appointment, USCIS will take your photograph, your fingerprints, and secure a digital signature that verifies that the information you provided on your petition was true and complete at the time of filing. After you complete the biometrics appointment, your appointment notice will be stamped to verify your presence. It is a good idea to keep this appointment notice and copies of all information you provide to USCIS for your records.
Who can I bring with me to the appointment? What do I need to bring? How long does it take for the appointment?
While there is no mandatory requirement, you can bring a friend, family member, or attorney to the biometric appointment. If you do not comprehend English, you should bring someone to assist you. For the appointment, you will need to bring the appointment notice and a photo ID (such as a drivers’ license, passport, or green card). Please read the appointment notice carefully as it may require additional documentation depending on YOUR specific case. Make sure to take that documentation with you to the appointment.
The appointment takes around 15 to 30 minutes and is held at the USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) for your region. You can normally enter the facility closer to the time of the appointment. Please keep in mind that there are a number of other applicants who also have the same appointment time as you. During the appointment time, applicants will be seen on a first-come and first-served basis. It is best to plan ahead of time and be there on time.
What If I cannot make my scheduled appointment?
The appointment notice will provide instructions on how to reschedule your appointment. You can request that your appointment be rescheduled in writing. If you know you cannot attend the initial appointment, make the request for a new appointment as soon as possible. It is important to realize that rescheduling the appointment can cause delays with the processing of your petition. Typically, the appointments are rescheduled within 30 days of the initial appointment.
What is USCIS doing with the data they collect?
There are several reasons for the biometric appointment. First, USCIS wants to ensure that you are really who you say you are. Second, the photo is utilized to generate an identity card (like a green card). Third, the fingerprints are used to conduct a criminal background check. If an applicant is under fourteen (14) years or older than seventy-nine (79) years, they will not be required to provide fingerprints. However, they will be asked to attend the biometrics appointment for a photograph and must attend. The data collected is valid for fifteen (15) months. If your petition is pending longer than that period, then you will have to attend another biometrics appointment.
What if I have a disability?
If you have a disability, you should inform the ASC officer during the biometrics appointment so that they can make an accommodation for your disability. If you cannot write your name in English or in your native language, you may be permitted to write an “X” to indicate that you have provided the requisite signature. Can USCIS change my name or provide answers to questions I have regarding my petition at the time of the appointment? USCIS personnel cannot and will not be providing any legal advice or case related information. They also cannot do a name change during the appointment.
The key takeaways are as follows:
- Be prepared for the appointment by collecting all the requirement documents;
- Make sure to arrive on time;
- Make every effort to keep your initial appointment.
Author: Attorney Shobhana R. Kasturi is a practicing immigration lawyer in the Chicagoland area. This article authored by Shobhana Kasturi was originally printed in the India Tribune, 2016. The content of this article is general in nature and not meant to constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Recipients of this article should refrain from taking action based on the information without seeking appropriate legal advice from an attorney licensed to provide such advice.