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What Happens at a USCIS Biometrics Appointment?

November 27, 2020
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Summary

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) requires a biometrics appointment (sometimes called the “fingerprint appointment”) as part of many applications for immigration benefits. At these appointments, the U.S. government will take your fingerprints, pictures, and signature to use for background-check and identification purposes. Usually, USCIS will schedule a date and time for the biometrics appointment for you. Sometimes, though, you will need to schedule it yourself. If you have a conflict, you can attend your scheduled biometrics appointment early or reschedule it for a later, more convenient time. But it’s best to attend your appointment at the scheduled time whenever possible. This article explains what happens at a biometrics appointment, how you should prepare for it, and what you should and should not bring along to your appointment.

ImmigrationHelp.org can help you prepare your immigration application for free with our easy-to-use online tools. Click the "Get Started" button above or read on to learn more.


Overview

What is the USCIS biometrics appointment?

The USCIS biometrics appointment is the U.S. government's way of checking an immigration applicant’s background with the FBI for any past criminal or immigration violations. The biometric appointment is not the same thing as a visa or Green Card interview. Rather, it helps USCIS to confirm your identity, check your eligibility, and ensure that they provide immigration benefits to the correct person if USCIS approves your application. 

If you apply for immigration benefits from inside the United States (adjustment of status), your biometrics appointment will be at a local USCIS office close to the address you listed on your application. Adjustment of status applicants will usually have their biometrics appointment before their Green Card interview. 

If you are applying for immigration from outside the United States (consular processing), your biometrics appointment will be at the U.S. consulate or embassy processing your application. Consular processing applicants will usually have their biometrics appointment sometime after the U.S. consulate schedules their immigration application interview.

The appointment itself is straightforward. It should take about 15 to 20 minutes total. When you arrive on your scheduled biometrics appointment date, you will likely have to wait for a bit. Then, at your appointment time, the officer will take your fingerprints, photograph, and your signature. That’s it! USCIS will save your biometric information in your Alien Registration File for use across various U.S. immigration agencies as needed in the future. Please note that the officer taking your fingerprints and other biometric information might not work for the USCIS office or U.S. consulate and cannot answer any questions about your immigration application. If you have any questions about your application, contact USCIS or the U.S. consulate directly.

Check out our filing guides to learn more about the process steps for your immigration application so that you can get a clear understanding of how the biometrics appointment fits into the process.

We can help you prepare your immigration application for free with our simple web application.

How do I prepare for my USCIS biometrics appointment?

Most of the time, the USCIS service center or the U.S. consulate handling your application will inform you of your biometrics appointment with an appointment notice (called an ASC notice), roughly 5 to 8 weeks after you file your application. You will receive the appointment letter at the mailing address you provided on your application. The names of who must attend the biometrics appointment are on the appointment notice. Only the people listed on the notice have to attend the biometrics appointment.

In some rare cases, you will need to schedule your biometrics appointment yourself by contacting your local embassy or consulate. When you do so, the embassy or consulate will tell you who needs to attend the appointment, and what they should bring with them.

What to bring to your USCIS biometrics appointment

Whether your appointment is scheduled for you or your schedule it yourself, each person who needs to attend should bring these documents with them to the appointment:

  • ASC biometric appointment notice itself (Form I-797C, Notice of Action)
  • Government-issued photo i.d.s, like a driver's license or passport
  • Any other receipt notices you may have received from USCIS
  • Any documents that USCIS noted in your appointment letter to bring with you. This could be an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) if you have one, a travel permit if you have one, among others

What NOT to bring to your USCIS biometrics appointment

There are also some prohibited items that you should never bring with you to the fingerprinting area at your biometrics appointment:

  • Weapons of any kind
  • Food
  • Cameras
  • Any other electronic devices

Normally, you will attend your biometrics appointment at the USCIS Application Support Center (ASC) listed on the appointment notice, unless the location is not convenient for you. At the top right corner of the biometrics appointment notice, you will see an ASC code. The ASC code differs depending on the type of biometric information that USCIS or the U.S. consulate will collect from you at your appointment. There are three different codes:

  • Code 1 - Fingerprinting for ten prints only. USCIS will send the fingerprints to the FBI the same day for a background check
  • Code 2 - Index finger press print, photo, and signature. USCIS will usually collect this information for use on a card like a permanent resident card or employment authorization document (EAD)
  • Code 3 - Fingerprinting for ten prints, index finger press print, photo, and signature. Code 3 is a combination of Codes 1 and 2

You don’t have to bring any payment with you to the biometrics appointment if you have already paid the biometrics fee(s) with your application (this is usually the case). Learn more about how to prepare for the biometrics appointment on the USCIS website.

Check out our filing guides for step-by-step guidance on where the biometrics appointment fits into the application process. Whether you are trying to get a Green Card for your spouse, renew your DACA, or any one of several other common application types, we’ve got you covered!

We can also help you prepare many common immigration applications for free with our simple web application.

What should I expect at my USCIS biometrics appointment?

When you arrive at your local Application Support Center (ASC), an immigration officer will greet you at the door. The officer will then ask for your biometrics appointment notice and your photo identification to confirm that you are the person, or people, listed on the biometrics appointment letter.

After they confirm your identity, the officer will give you an intake form to fill out. On the form, you will have to provide your name, address, and immigration status, and then add your signature. After you complete the form, the immigration officer will give you a ticket number and then ask you to sit and wait for your number's turn. It’s a good idea to arrive as early as possible for your biometrics appointment so that you do not have to wait too long for your turn.

The biometrics officer will call out your number when it is your turn. There will be a chair available for you to sit and have your photo taken. Afterward, you will go to a computer with a LiveScan machine to get your fingerprints captured digitally.

The biometrics appointment is one of several steps in the immigration application process. We can help you put your immigration application together for free so that you can make it to the biometrics step.

Can I reschedule my biometrics appointment?

Yes, you can reschedule your biometrics appointment if necessary. Your appointment notice will have information about how you can reschedule. 

Steps for rescheduling your biometrics appointment

Step 1 - Check the box on the appointment notice next to "Please reschedule my appointment"

Step 2 - Make a copy of the appointment notice for your records

Step 3 - Mail the original appointment notice with the box checked to the ASC location that USCIS listed on the appointment notice

You will generally need to send USCIS a letter notifying them that you will be unavailable on the original date and informing them of a few new appointment dates when you will be available. You may or may not get one of these dates, but it is good to provide them to help guide USCIS. Please note that rescheduling your biometrics appointment will delay your application's processing. 

 In most cases, the USCIS Application Support Centers(ASCs) will reschedule your actual appointment to a new date that is between three to eight weeks from the date they receive your reschedule request. USCIS will notify you of your rescheduled appointment date on a new appointment notice. USCIS may deny your immigration application if you stall your biometrics appointment for too long. Do your best to be available at the new appointment time so you can have your biometrics and background check processed in a reasonable timeframe. 

Learn more about the immigration application process steps in our comprehensive filing guides. If you are applying for immigration, ImmigrationHelp.org can help you prepare your application for free.

Can I do an early walk-in for my biometrics appointment?

If you are wondering if you could have your biometrics appointment earlier than the scheduled date on your appointment notice, the answer is possibly. You may be able to do what is called an “early walk-in.” Early walk-in appointments are available at some Application Support Centers(ASCs). To find out if you can do an early walk-in for your biometrics appointment, you must call your local ASC or U.S. consulate to determine if they allow that. If they tell you it's okay to go in earlier for your appointment, then you can make plans to go as early as works for you.

Biometrics appointments can take a while, so it is best to walk in for yours at slower times of the day. You shouldn’t have to wait too long in line if you show up during the slower morning and afternoon hours.

If you are interested in applying for immigration, we can help you figure out if you are eligible to apply for immigration for free.

What happens after the biometrics appointment?

When you have completed your biometrics appointment, the officer will stamp your appointment notice as proof. Be sure to keep the stamped biometrics appointment notice in a safe place in case USCIS needs you to prove that they collected your biometric information in the future.

The amount of time it will take USCIS or your U.S. consulate/embassy to reach out to you depends on your application type and its processing timeframe. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic may also impact how long it takes to hear back about next steps for your application. Check out our article on immigration application processing times to learn more about how long it should take to get a response from USCIS. You can also learn more about specific timing for the consular Green Card application process, and the adjustment of status Green Card filing process on our website.

ImmigrationHelp.org can walk you through the process of putting together your immigration application for free.

Biometrics FAQs: What else should I know about the biometrics appointment?

Why did I get a second biometrics appointment notice?

If you receive a second biometrics appointment notice after completing the first appointment, don't panic! It is normal to get a notice like this, and USCIS may have sent it to you for a few different reasons. There may have been an issue reading your fingerprints or using the photos or signature that you provided. Or, maybe your biometrics information expired before USCIS processed your application. Biometric information is valid for only 15 months. If USCIS delays processing your application for longer than 15 months, they will need you to resubmit your biometric information. Whatever the reason for the second notice, make sure that you comply with it so that the government can process your application. You should be good to go in no time once you comply! 

My family is applying together; will our biometrics appointment be at the same time?

USCIS will usually try to schedule you and your family's biometrics appointment together if you are all applying for immigration status together. Attending the biometrics screening together as a family is not always possible, though.

If you are applying for immigration status with your family members and you receive a biometrics notice, but your applicant family members do not, it might be possible for you all to attend the biometrics appointment together. The decision is ultimately up to the Application Support Center (ASC) where you will be attending your biometrics appointment. If you would like to attend your appointment with your applicant family members, you should call your ASC in advance to explain your situation and ask if they will allow you and your family members to have your biometric screenings together. You can also have your family members accompany you to the appointment with their photo I.D.s, receipt notices, and evidence of your relationship with them, just in case your ASC allows them to do their biometric screening too.

If your ASC does not allow your family members to have their biometric screening with you because they don't have appointment notices, your family members will have to wait for their biometric notices to attend the biometric screening later.

What should I do if I have a criminal record?

If you have a criminal record, it is good to work with an immigration lawyer to prepare your immigration application. An immigration lawyer can advise you on where and how to disclose your criminal record on your application so that you have the best chance of being approved.

The background check that USCIS performs with your biometric information is to make sure that you did not fail to disclose any past criminal activities on your application. An immigration lawyer can help you make sure that you have properly disclosed all of the relevant information about your record.

If you cannot afford the expensive fees that many immigration law firms charge, you can check out the USA.gov website for free and low-cost immigration lawyers to help you with your application.

What if the fingerprint reader can't read my fingerprint?

Sometimes, the fingerprint readers that the ASC uses struggle to read applicant’s fingerprints. the fingerprint reader very often can’t take your fingerprints if your hands are too dry. If this happens, the officer will usually offer you some hand lotion to apply so that the fingerprint reader can capture your fingerprint. You don't have to worry if your palms are sweaty - the fingerprinting technology should still be able to capture your fingerprints. If the fingerprint reader still can’t capture your fingerprints after the officer tries a few different solutions, they will try alternative fingerprinting options.

I have a child under 14 years old; do they have to attend a biometrics appointment?

If USCIS lists your child under 14 years old on the biometrics appointment notice, your child must attend the biometrics appointment. If your child is not listed on the notice, then they do not need to attend the biometrics appointment.

If USCIS listed your child's name on the biometrics notice, they need your child's biometrics information to process your child’s application. If your child is applying for a Green Card, the ASC may also need to take their photo for the card. You should take your child to the biometrics appointment even if you did not submit a biometrics fee for them

Check out our article on how to file for a Green Card for your child on our website. You can learn more about the entire Green Card process for your child, and what you can expect to happen at every stage.

At ImmigrationHelp.org, we can also help you put your application together for free with our simple web app.

Conclusion

We hope that you found our guide to the biometrics appointment step in the immigration application process useful. Working with a good immigration attorney can make your immigration process easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees and don't want to handle yourcase alone, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!

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