What Happens at the USCIS Biometrics Appointment?

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. Here's what to expect.

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

In most cases, you will pay a fee for this service at the time you submit your application to USCIS (though asylum applicants need not pay this fee). In most cases, you'll need to attend an in-person interview at a USCIS office, to review your application. Before that happens, however, you will likely need to attend a biometrics appointment, as discussed in this article.

What Is a Biometrics Appointment Notice?

After USCIS receives your application, it will mail you a biometrics appointment notice some time later, usually within about four to 11 weeks, depending on what type of application you submitted. It will give you an exact place, date, and time at which you are expected to show up.

This notice is typically one page front and back and will say "Form I-797C, Notice of Action" in the upper right-hand corner. In the upper left-hand corner, it will read "Department of Homeland Security" and under it: "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services." The top of the page will include fields listing your case type, notice date, application number, and account number. It will also indicate the USCIS center that is handling your application, as well as a notice code.

The biometrics appointment notice codes can be one of three options—the number 1, 2, or 3. Each number represents what type of data USCIS will need to gather from you at your biometrics appointment:

  • If you have a notice code of 1, USCIS just needs your fingerprints. When you attend your appointment, they will take a scan of all ten of your fingertips.
  • If you have a notice code of 2, USCIS needs your signature, a photo of you, and a scan of your index fingers. At your appointment, they will take a digital photo of you, scan both your index finger fingerprints, and ask for your signature.
  • If you have a notice code of 3, USCIS needs all of your fingerprints, a photo of you, and your signature. At your appointment, you will be asked to provide everything mentioned above.

Once you receive your biometrics appointment notice, you should read it carefully and understand the time and location of your appointment. Bring your appointment notice with you when you attend your biometrics appointment.

Where the Biometrics 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 immigration case.

Can My Family Have Their Biometric Appointments Together?

If you and your family are applying together, USCIS will ordinarily try to schedule your biometrics appointments at the same place and at the same or similar times. This is not guaranteed, however.

If you receive your biometrics notice before anyone else in your family, it might be possible to ask the ASC where their appointments will be held and to schedule the whole family's biometrics appointments together. You can call that ASC to make this request, or try calling the USCIS Contact Center. You can also try to have your family attend your scheduled biometrics appointment with their required documents at the same time as you, and ask the ASC to process all of you together.

If the ASC denies your request, however, your family members will have to wait until they receive their biometrics appointment notices to complete their biometrics.

What Will Happen During Your Biometrics Appointment?

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 perform some combination of collecting your fingerprints, taking your photo, and having 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 to the Biometrics Appointment

You will need to bring along:

  • the appointment notice from USCIS
  • 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 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 might have to pass through a metal detector and have your personal items scanned.

How Long the Biometrics Appointment Will Take

Actually collecting your biometrics will take only around 15 minutes. However, getting to the USCIS office itself could be a long trip for you; made longer by the fact that you should leave plenty of time to get there.

You will not 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 might 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 Biometrics Appointment?

See your appointment notice for instructions for requesting a reschedule. In the past, it could be done only in writing, but now you can either phone the USCIS Contact Center (if you're not within 12 hours of the appointment) or reschedule online by setting up a USCIS account.

Take care of this request as soon as possible, and realize that rescheduling could delay a decision on your application. Also be ready to show good cause for rescheduling, such as an illness, hospitalization, previously arranged vacation or travel, or need to attend an important ceremony such as a graduation or wedding.

If you are unable to notify USCIS before the scheduled appointment date, consult an attorney immediately. Your application is at risk of being denied on the basis of your having abandoned it.

What the Data USCIS Collects From You 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 and other security services 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 could make you ineligible for the immigration benefit you are applying for.

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

When You Might Face Issues in a Biometrics Appointment

There could be situations in which you are concerned that providing biometric information, like your fingerprints, could cause trouble. Most people do not have anything to worry about when providing fingerprints to USCIS, but if you have a criminal record or USCIS violations in your past, your biometrics will likely reveal these. Some crimes can prevent you from obtaining the immigration status you request.

If you know that you have a criminal record or have committed any immigration violations, it is important to contact an immigration attorney before attending your biometrics appointment. When discussing these issues with your attorney, honestly describing any violations will help make sure they are analyzed and dealt with before you go further.

What Happens After a Biometrics Appointment?

Once your biometrics appointment is complete but before you leave, a USCIS officer will stamp your appointment notice to confirm that you attended. Hold onto this document in a safe place in case you need to prove that you attended your biometrics appointment.

What happens next depends on your application type. Some cases might require an interview, while others will not require any additional information. Sometimes, you might receive another biometrics appointment notice in the mail that looks just like the previous one. This typically does not indicate a problem, and the ASC might just need to collect your data once again due to a quality issue such as smudged fingerprints. If this is the case, USCIS will not charge your biometrics fee again.

If there was no issue with your biometric data and you do not need to complete an interview, USCIS will normally issue a decision some weeks after your biometrics appointment. Again, the length of time you're likely to wait depends on your case type. You can always check your case status online by typing in your receipt number.

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