What Is Biometrics?

Updated on April 10, 2024

At a Glance

  • The biometrics appointment is a standard procedure in the green card application process conducted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • It involves the collection of biometric data, such as fingerprints and photographs, to check for criminal records and immigration violations.
  • Applicants should prepare by bringing required documents, following guidelines, and avoiding prohibited items.
  • The appointment is a quick administrative procedure, not an interview, and rescheduling should be done sparingly to avoid delays or potential application denials.

Biometrics refers to anatomical and physiological information unique to individuals. Most often, biometric markers are used for identification purposes and record-keeping by the government. These markers include a person’s photograph, fingerprint scans, and their signature for electronic capture. In this article, we will discuss the biometrics appointment required during the green card application process.

What Is the Biometrics Appointment?

Getting a biometrics appointment as part of the application process for a green card or permanent residency in the United States of America is a straightforward procedure with nothing much to be intimidated about. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts these biometrics appointments as part of their application process for the green card.

The appointment ensures that the applicant does not have any prior criminal record or immigration violations against them. The biometric data is cross-checked with the FBI criminal database to check for criminal records and the Department for Homeland Security database for any immigration violations.

There is no DNA or blood test involved in the biometrics appointment. There are some instances where the applicant may have to provide a DNA sample. This is generally when the applicant is based on blood relation.

The biometrics procedure is relatively stress-free and straightforward; however, it is best to prepare for this appointment. Read on to know more about the biometrics appointment and feel more prepared for the whole process.

How to Get Ready for the Biometrics Appointment

The biometrics appointment is one of the first steps after you have submitted your green card application. Many get an initial appointment with the biometrics division even before the USCIS has confirmed their application package. The final appointment date is typically five to seven weeks after the filing date of your application.

The appointment for the biometrics test is held at the USCIS office near your residential area or at an application support center. You can find your nearest application support center at the USCIS surface and office locator website.

It is essential to prepare for your biometrics appointment. While your sponsor does not have to be there, they can be there with you present for the biometrics appointment. In terms of documents, here are the following documents to keep before going for a scheduled appointment:

  • The appointment notice issued by the USCIS.
  • A valid photo ID. This can be your passport, driver’s license, or any other government-issued ID.
  • Any receipt notices that provide information on the exact nature and type of immigration application and its processing.
  • Read your appointment notice carefully and bring everything else that the USCIS requests you to bring to the appointment. This can include any previous employment records or travel visas issued in your name.

Since you will be entering a federal building, it is better if you avoid bringing items like food, beverages without a lid, cameras or any electronic devices, pocket knives, or any other objects that can be turned into a weapon.

During the biometrics appointment, the USCIS official will scan your fingerprints, get a photograph, and get your signature for electronic capture. The entire process takes about 15 to 20 minutes, but there may be some wait time before the actual appointment. Once the appointment is over, the officer will stamp your appointment notice as confirmation of your attendance. Make sure to keep this document safe for future purposes.

The biometrics appointment is not an interview. The officials taking your fingerprints, signatures, and photo have no information about your application. This is a purely administrative procedure in the immigration process. You do not need to make any extra payment for or during the biometrics appointment, as it is included in the $85 you paid as part of your green card application package.

Biometrics FAQ

In this section, we’ll answer some common questions regarding the biometrics appointment.

What If I Have a Criminal Record?

As a general practice, it is advisable to consult a lawyer for the entire immigration process if you have a criminal record. The lawyer will ensure that you adequately disclose your legal history at the appropriate junctures of your application. The primary purpose of the biometrics appointment is not to deny green card applications to those with a criminal past but to ensure that applicants are submitting accurate criminal records during the green card application.

It is important to note that certain criminal records may bar the applicant from getting a green card. Be sure to consult with an immigration lawyer if you have any criminal records against your name.

Why Did I Get a Second Biometrics Appointment Notice?

There can be many reasons for receiving a second biometrics appointment notice. It does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with your application or that the USCIS will deny your application. The following are the two frequent reasons why the USCIS could issue a second biometrics appointment notice:

  • The fingerprint scan was smudged and unusable. If this occurs or any other mistake that makes your biometric markers like your signature or photographs useless, you have to go in for a second biometrics appointment.
  • The second reason is that your biometric markers expired before your green card application was processed. The biometrics and other background checks are valid for 15 months. However, if your green card application process exceeds this time limit, you will have to get a second biometrics appointment.

Delays or mistakes in the biometrics appointment can be avoided by planning ahead. Preparing beforehand can help immensely with having a successful application.

Can I Reschedule My Biometrics Appointment?

If, for some reason, you cannot get to your scheduled biometrics appointment, you have the chance to reschedule it. Earlier, one could reschedule the appointment only through a written letter, but now it is possible to reschedule by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 1-800-375-5283. 

It is not advisable to reschedule your appointment unless you need to, and rescheduling it twice will raise a red flag for the USCIS. It is easy to underestimate the biometrics section of the application because it is so simple, but it can get tricky if you delay or reschedule it too often.

You must send in your reschedule request as soon as possible and acknowledge that rescheduling will delay your application further. You will also have to provide a sufficient reason for rescheduling your application.

If you cannot notify the USCIS about the reschedule, talk to a lawyer immediately, as this can jeopardize your application. While rescheduling may not affect your application, not submitting your biometrics data on time can lead to your application being denied. Not showing up for your appointments may also damage your chances of getting a green card.

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The biometrics appointment is one of the first things in the green card application process. It is best to get it done as soon as possible as it takes the USCIS quite some time to process the data and move the application forward. It is highly advisable to work with an attorney to make your green card application a success.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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