Biometrics Appointment FAQ

Updated on 08/25/2020

Whether you are applying for U.S. lawful permanent residence (“green card”), naturalization, change of status, employment authorization, travel document, 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. After you file the petition or application for certain immigration benefit, you will receive a biometrics appointment notice some weeks or months later in the mail (see sample below). This will give you an exact place, date, and time at which you are expected to show up. The biometrics you provide during your biometrics appointment allow USCIS to confirm your identity and run required background and security checks.

I-797 notice for biometrics appointment
I-797 notice for biometrics appointment

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This article answers nine frequently asked questions regarding the biometrics appointment:

1. 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.

2. What happens at the fingerprint 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 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.

3. What to bring with me to the biometrics appointment?

You will need to bring along:

  • the biometrics appointment notice from USCIS
  • a photo ID, such as a drivers’ license, passport, green card (required if apply for naturalization)
  • any other documents USCIS has specifically requested on your appointment notice

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 might have to pass through a metal detector and have your personal items scanned.

4. How long will the biometrics appointment 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 leave plenty of time to get there.

You will not, however, be let into the building until close to the time of your appointment. Usually, arriving there 30 minutes earlier is recommended.   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.

5. Can I reschedule the biometrics appointment?

Yes. 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 immigration attorney immediately.

6. Can I do earlier walk-in for the biometrics appointment?

In the duration of COVID-19 pandemic, the answer should be no.

In normal times without pandemic, the answer will depend on the specific ASC and most will allow it. The reason you are scheduled for a specific date and time is that many ASC are located in small rooms and would not be able to handle a large group of people all at once. Normally, ASC is busy in the morning. So it is advisable to do the walk-in in the afternoon but before 3:00 pm.

7. Can I go to another ASC for bometrics?

Again, during the period of the pandemic, the answer should be no.

In regular periods without pandemic, the answer will depend on the specific ASC and most will allow it. Many individuals had success at another ASC to finish their biometric appointment although the appointment letter assigns them to other ASC. This happens a lot when people are traveling out of town.  

8. What the data on me 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, work permit/EAD, travel or document), 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 might 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 case is still under consideration, you may be asked to return for another biometrics appointment.

9. What if I have a criminal record?

If you have a criminal record, you may be not eligible for the immigration benefit you are applying for, which means your application will be denied. However, not all criminal record has such negative effect on your application. If you have a criminal record, it is advisable for you to consult an immigration attorney before you file the application to USCIS.

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