If you’re going through the green card or naturalization process, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will require you to attend a biometrics appointment.
But what are biometrics and why does USCIS need them? How do you get ready for a biometrics appointment?
What Are Biometrics?
The term “biometrics” refers to the processes used to identify people based on physical traits. Immigrant applicants need to participate in a biometrics appointment for the purpose of facilitating a criminal background check.
At a USCIS biometrics appointment, your fingerprints will be taken for analysis and filed with the FBI. Your picture will also be taken.
DNA testing is separate from a biometrics appointment. USCIS has stated that they may request immigration DNA testing for cases where applicants are either from developing countries and do not have birth certificates, or when there are suspicious discrepancies within the case.
Drug testing is not part of a biometrics appointment, but it may come up in your USCIS medical exam.
Biometrics are required with USCIS forms like the I-90 and the I-131. Once USCIS officers start processing your application, you will receive a biometrics appointment notice.
Getting Ready for Your Biometrics Appointment
The biometrics appointment may take a while to manage, but once at the USCIS office it is a very quick process. Make sure everything goes smoothly by knowing what to bring and where to go.
What to Bring to Your Biometrics Appointment
Every biometrics appointment requires photo identification, such as:
- Passport or national photo identification issued by your country
- Driver’s license
- Military photo identification
- State-issued photo identification card
Your appointment letter may also state the need for additional supporting documentation, which may include but is not limited to:
- Legal name change decree
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificate
Keep in mind that personal documents in a language other than English must have certified translations. It is important that all requested documents are brought to your biometrics appointment. If your appointment is soon and you do not have translations of your personal documents, rush translation is available.
Where to Go for Your Biometrics Appointment
The USCIS biometrics appointment notice will have the date and time of your appointment as well as the address of the appointed USCIS office. Pay particular attention if you live in a larger city with multiple USCIS offices. Your appointment may not be with the office closest to your home, but rather with the office which can offer you the earliest appointment.
What to Expect at the USCIS Biometrics Appointment
Before entering the USCIS biometrics center with your USCIS appointment notice, be sure to leave your cell phone or any digital camera in the car or with a friend. Cameras and phones are not allowed in the USCIS offices.
Once your appointment gets underway, you will be asked to fill out a form. The form will ask for some personal information, and you will also need to indicate what form you filed that requires the biometrics.
Next, your fingerprints will be taken. Most USCIS offices still use ink to take fingerprints — however, more offices are switching to electronic fingerprinting.
After the USCIS Biometrics Appointment
Fingerprints will then be analyzed by the FBI, usually within a month. If you get an additional biometrics appointment notice within the next few weeks, don’t panic — this is commonly due to smudged prints, and fingerprints will need to be retaken to complete the background check. USCIS will not charge an additional fee for any further fingerprinting work.
If the FBI flags or rejects your biometrics, you will be required to present police clearance reports from every state or country you’ve lived in proving that you do not have an extensive criminal record.
USCIS biometrics are valid for 15 months. If your application is not processed within 15 months, USCIS will most likely send another notice for a biometrics appointment.
Note: This page is for general informational purposes only. LLS cannot give personal advice to any individual regarding immigration status. Please contact USCIS with any questions. Our full disclaimer can be read here.