What Happens at the USCIS Biometrics Appointment?

Citizenship and green card applicants must attend a biometrics appointment where USCIS will collect fingerprints, pictures, and other data used to run a criminal background check and create official documents. Here's what to expect.

Whether you are applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card), naturalization, asylum, or one of various other types of immigration benefits, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require you to attend what is called a biometrics appointment.

In most cases, you will pay a fee for this service at the time you submit your application (though asylum applicants need not pay this fee.) You will receive a biometrics appointment notice some weeks or months later, while your application is being processed. This will give you an exact place, date, and time at which you are expected to show up.

Where the Appointment Will Be Held

The appointment may be held at the office of USCIS that serves your geographical area, or at an Application Support Center (ASC). For a list of ASCs, see the USCIS Service and Office Locator. Realize that the people who collect biometrics at these appointments do not have access to your file, and cannot give you advice or information about your case.

What Happens

Biometrics is a scientific term that means anatomical or physiological data by which a person can be uniquely identified. At your biometrics appointment, USCIS will collect your fingerprints, take your photo, and have you sign your name for electronic capture.

At the end of this appointment, you will be given a stamp on your appointment notice confirming that you attended. Safeguard this document carefully, in case you are later asked for it or USCIS cannot find its own record that you attended the appointment.

What to Bring

You will need to bring:

  • the appointment notice
  • a photo ID, such as a drivers’ license, passport, or similar card or document, and
  • any receipt notices that show what type of immigration application you have in processing.

Of course, if USCIS asks you to bring anything else to the appointment, you should do so.

Because you will be entering into a federal building, also plan ahead for what you should NOT bring, such as food, beverages without a lid, cameras (including camera phones) or various types of electronic devices, and pocket knives or anything else that could be considered a weapon. You may have to pass through a metal detector and have your personal items scanned.

How Long Appointment Will Take

Actually collecting your biometrics will take only around 15 minutes. However, getting to the USCIS office itself may be a long trip for you – made longer by the fact that you should plan to leave plenty of time to get there. You will not, however, be let into the building until close to the time of your appointment. Nevertheless, cutting it close on timing and missing the appointment can result in either long delays or USCIS presuming that you mean to abandon your application.

Also realize that a number of people received the same appointment time as you did. Within that time slot, you and they will all be seen on a first-come, first-served basis. Once you arrive, you be given a number indicating your place in line.

What If You Can't Make Your Scheduled Appointment?

See the appointment notice. It will give you instructions for requesting a reschedule, which you must do in writing. Take care of this as soon as possible – and realize that this rescheduling may delay a decision on your application. If you realize that you cannot notify USCIS before the scheduled appointment date, consult an attorney immediately.

What the Data Is Used For

Aside from helping USCIS make sure that you are really you, the biometrics photo is often used to create an identity card or document (such as your green card or work permit), and the fingerprints are used for an FBI check of your criminal and immigration record.

Applicants under 14 or over 79 years of age will not need an FBI fingerprint check – but they will still be called in for biometrics if their photo is needed.

Many types of criminal convictions or security and immigration violations are grounds of inadmissibility or deportability, either of which might make you ineligible for the immigration benefit you are applying for.

The results of your biometrics appointment are good for 15 months. Therefore, if that time passes and your case is still under consideration, you may be asked to return for another biometrics appointment.

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