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Navigating USCIS Biometrics Process During the Pandemic

Over the last few months, we have seen a rapid rise in biometrics-related issues due to the raging pandemic. USCIS acknowledges the tremendous backlog with biometrics scheduling noting approximately 1.3 million applicants still waiting for biometrics appointments as of mid-December. USCIS is scheduling approximately 10,400 appointments per day. Our office has seen and continues to see delays in the receipt of biometric notices. In addition, we have received inquiries on how to get a biometrics appointment? If applicants/beneficiaries can show up to get their biometrics captured without appointment? Or whether they require biometrics as they have family and friends that tell them it is not necessary.

Biometrics

Applicants are required to personally appear at an Application Support Center (ASC), by appointment, to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) for various immigration benefits. This includes, but is not limited to, employment authorization documents (EAD), advance parole (AP), applications to adjust status, naturalization, and I-539 applications to change or extend nonimmigrant visa status. On March 13, 2020, USCIS temporarily closed its ASCs and field offices nationwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting in June 2020, ASC offices began a phased re-opening adhering to social distancing, occupancy capacity, and in personnel staffing capabilities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and both USCIS field office and ASC closures, many appointments were canceled and had to be rescheduled while many initial biometrics appointments have yet to be scheduled. USCIS has indicated that it will automatically reschedule any necessary ASC appointments that were canceled due to temporary office closure or send notification of biometrics reuse to eligible individuals.

Biometrics Reuse

USCIS is authorized to reuse previously submitted biometrics under limited circumstances to verify an individual’s identity and perform security checks. If USCIS is able to reuse previous biometrics, USCIS will mail a Form I-797 notice to the applicant, which states, “USCIS is able to reuse your previously captured fingerprints and other biometrics […] it is not necessary for you to appear at a USCIS Application Support Center”. Not all applications meet the requirements for biometrics reuse.

Rescheduling Biometrics

If you must reschedule a biometrics appointment, you can submit a copy of the ASC appointment notice checking the box at the bottom to reschedule the appointment or you can call the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283 at least 2 weeks before the scheduled appointment date (or as soon as possible) as the USCIS representative may be able to reschedule your client on the spot. If the date for the biometrics has passed, you should ask the USCIS representative to place the client back into the biometrics scheduling queue.