September 27, 2021

The Ultimate Guide to the Biometrics Appointment

A biometrics appointment is a standard requirement for applying for a green card. Although the terminology may be unfamiliar, this appointment collects fingerprints and verifies the applicant’s identity. It can be intimidating to have your fingerprints and photo taken, but qualified applicants without a criminal history or prior immigration violations shouldn’t be too concerned about this step.

What to Expect at a Biometrics Appointment

A biometrics appointment is typically conducted at a USCIS or US Consulate office, depending on whether the green card applicant is located in the US or abroad. This appointment occurs early in the green card process. It identifies immigrants who are not eligible for a green card due to criminal activity or immigration violations.

Biometrics, or biological data, is the most efficient way to positively identify matches. Applicants will provide fingerprints, take a photo, and sign their official signature, and this information will be cross-referenced across government records to clear the candidate for eligibility.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) maintains a database of non-citizens with immigration violations. The Federal Burea of Investigation (FBI) maintains a criminal database that stores biometric data for matching purposes.

Some applicants worry that the biometrics appointment will be invasive. But there is no blood draw, DNA test, or other invasive sampling required, and this should help ease some fears. However, if an application is based on a questionable familial relationship, immigration is within its rights to verify that relationship using a blood test.

The good news is that the biometrics appointment should be quick. It typically takes twenty minutes or less to complete the requirements of the test. The biometrics appointment is not conducted by the same personnel that will conduct interviews, so there is no need to be anxious about this step of the process.

Related: Is it Possible to Work While a Green Card Application is Pending

What to bring to a Biometrics Appointment

The biometrics appointment is typically scheduled early in the application process, and dates for this appointment land in the first six to eight weeks. That means that green card applicants need to be prepared for this step right away. 

Here’s what you need:

  • A photo ID (e.g., passport, drivers license)
  • USCIS Notice of Appointment
  • Copies of Other Related Notices from USCIS
  • Supporting Documents as Requested by USCIS (e.g., work authorizations, travel permits, etc.)

The fee for your biometrics appointment will be paid with your application. You won’t need to bring any money, and you should not bring any weapons, food, electronic devices, or cameras with you.

How Biometrics Are Used in the Green Card Process

woman waiting for her information to be processed

Your biometric information is used to verify that you meet the eligibility requirements to become a green cardholder. Non-citizens are not allowed to hold a green card if they have a criminal history or previous immigration violations. This means that if an applicant has a conviction for an aggravated felony, drug-related offense like possession of narcotics, or a crime of moral turpitude like rape.

Not all criminal offenses make an applicant ineligible for a green card. And an arrest does not necessarily mean there is a conviction. However, if your biometric data matches a conviction record, your green card application will be denied. Additionally, lying on a green card application is also grounds for rejection. That means if you have a criminal record, that does not fall into the ineligibility category. Still, you are concerned and try to hide it; concealing the information might get you disqualified from eligibility. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your green card application.

Related: What You Need to Know About US Work Authorization

What Happens After the Biometrics Appointment?

orange county immigration lawyer explaining to the client the next steps

After the appointment, many applicants are eager to get approval on their green card, and some fret that waiting months to hear back means there is a problem with their application. In most cases, it is perfectly normal for the green card application to take up to one year or more. However, the amount of time that it takes depends on the application type.

Some applicants will receive a response with the next steps of the green card process in just a few weeks after their biometrics appointment. Staff shortages and the volume of applicants can slow things down, and it may take anywhere between five and ten months.

At your biometrics appointment, a clerk will stamp your notice as proof that you were present at your appointment. This record is important in case immigration loses the records of your biometric testing. USCIS may request a second appointment if that does happen, and you will be asked to provide your data again. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Biometrics Appointment

We have rounded up some common sticking points to help ease some of the anxieties you may have about your upcoming biometrics appointment. From rescheduling appointments to getting a translator, here’s what you need to know.

Why did I get a second notice for a biometrics appointment?

It is not uncommon to get called back for a second biometrics appointment. Many applicants assume that this means there is a problem with their application or that they may be denied. The most common reason for a second appointment is to provide new samples to replace illegible or expired samples from a prior appointment. 

It’s not uncommon for fingerprints or signatures to get smudged. And while biometrics samples are valid for fifteen months, the US government is not well-known for its efficiency or speed in processing applications. It is within the realm of possibility that your samples might have expired. 

Can I reschedule my biometrics appointment?

While a green card will not be denied because you rescheduled an appointment, it is best to avoid rescheduling if possible. However, rescheduling is always better than missing an appointment. A missed appointment will certainly result in a denied green card application. 

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What do I do if I need language support for my appointment?

Written instructions are available in multiple languages for your review before your biometrics appointment. However, the testing will be performed by an English-speaking proxy. If you need assistance with translation during the appointment, you may bring a translator with you. One family member, attorney, or accredited representative will be allowed in the testing appointment with the applicant. 

Related: Request for Evidence: What You Need to Know

The Bottom Line on Biometrics Appointments

Although it sounds scary, a biometrics appointment is a simple process. Green card applicants will need to provide fingerprints, a photo, and a signature to verify that they are eligible to become a green cardholders. Biometric data will be cross-referenced against FBI and DHS databases. For most applicants, this is a simple but necessary process. Every step of the green card application should be a priority for the applicant. 

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