What is a Biometrics Appointment?
When you apply for a green card, or certain other immigration benefits, you’ll have to attend what is known as a biometrics appointment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But what exactly is a biometrics appointment, why are biometrics needed, and how can you prepare for the appointment? Here, we explain everything you need to know.
What Are Biometrics and Why Are They Needed?
Biometrics is a term which describes data that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services collects from you: your fingerprints, your signature, and a photo. USCIS obtains this information during a biometrics appointment that takes place at one of the agency’s nationwide Application Support Centers, referred to as ASCs.
USCIS uses your biometrics to confirm your identity when you apply for immigration benefits, like obtaining a green card, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, or asylum, among others. Your information is also processed through a database at the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to perform a background check for criminal records.
Who Schedules Your Biometrics Appointment?
After you apply for a green card, or other immigration benefit, USCIS will schedule your biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center that’s local to you. The agency will send you an appointment notice, Notice of Action (Form I-797C)), which will specify the location, date, and time of your appointment. To find out more information about your specific ASC office, you can use the USCIS Service and Office Locator.
What Should You Bring to a Biometrics Appointment?
For your biometrics appointment you should bring your appointment notice (Form I-797C), a valid photo ID—like your passport, driver’s license, or a state-issued photo ID, as well as any documents that USCIS instructed you to bring (in your appointment notice). If USCIS sent you multiple notices for your biometrics appointment, you should bring all of them with you.
It’s important for you to know that your immigration attorney doesn’t need to accompany you to your appointment, although they may have submitted your application or petition for benefits.
What if You Miss Your Appointment?
If you don’t appear for your biometrics appointment, USCIS will deem that you have “abandoned” your application for immigration benefits—unless, by your appointment time, you request to reschedule and USCIS deems that your reason for failing to appear was reasonable; or if you previously sent the agency a change of address.
To reschedule your appointment, call the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283. At the time of this writing, USCIS does not accept requests by mail.
If you become detained or incarcerated before your appointment date, it’s important for you to know that USCIS won’t travel to prisons, jails, or other non-Department of Homeland Security detention facilities, to collect biometrics. In such an instance, you would have to follow certain procedures in order to be able to have your appointment rescheduled. In a case like this, it would be wise to reach out to an Austin immigration attorney. Your lawyer would be able to help you navigate this process to help keep your application for immigration benefits moving forward.
What if You Don’t Understand English Well and You Need an Interpreter?
If you’re in need of language help during your biometrics appointment, USCIS provides instructions and information written in Chinese, Arabic, French, Polish, Korean, Portuguese, and Creole. If you don’t speak English well, you may bring someone who can act as a translator for you. This person can be a member of your family, a friend, an accredited representative, or your attorney.
Does USCIS Make Accommodations for Collecting Biometrics From People With Disabilities or Other Health Issues?
If you have a disability or a health reason that makes you unable to attend your biometrics appointment in person, USCIS has mobile biometrics services that may be available to you. The agency may also provide mobile biometrics in other, limited, situations. You can contact USCIS online to request accommodations for your upcoming appointment. It’s best to request an accommodation as soon as you receive your biometrics appointment notice.
You can also reach the agency by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283 (TTY 800-767-1833) and speaking with a representative (in English or Spanish). If you’re an applicant for asylum or the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act 203 (NACARA 203), you must make your accommodation request by phone.
If USCIS denies your request for an accommodation, and you feel that it was in error, you can call the contact center and ask for your request to be reconsidered. You should provide any new information that you may have regarding your request.
The fingerprint portion of biometrics collection may be waived for certain applicants who have medical conditions that make them unable to provide fingerprints. This includes instances involving skin conditions, physical deformities, birth defects, and psychiatric conditions.
What is the Fee for a Biometrics Appointment?
At the time of this writing, USCIS charges a fee of $85 for a biometric screening, although it periodically adjusts its fees. For a comprehensive look at the agency’s fees to process forms for various immigration benefits, you can check USCIS’s fee calculator.
Do You Need to Talk to an Immigration Attorney About Preparing for Your Biometrics Appointment?
If you need to speak with an attorney about preparing for your biometrics appointment, or if your requested appointment accommodation has been denied, call us right away to schedule a free consultation. You’ll talk to an experienced Austin immigration attorney who can help you keep your application for immigration benefits on track.