If you are applying for a U.S. immigration benefit such as a green card or citizenship, and you are over the age of 14 and live in the United States, you will probably need to attend a biometrics appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). This is required for a variety of immigration applications, including naturalized citizenship, green card renewals, adjustments of status, asylum, and more.
At that ASC appointment, you will provide U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature. Without this information, your application can't move forward; USCIS will need it to run security checks, produce an identity document for you, and more. But what happens if you never hear about the biometrics appointment, or you miss it for some other reason? This article will address that concern.
With careful monitoring of the progress of your immigration application and your appointment dates, you can take steps to get a new biometrics appointment and quickly get your application back on track.
If you fail to attend your scheduled biometrics appointment, it could result in significant delays in your immigration application. USCIS could even take the view that your application was abandoned, and reject it accordingly. This is true even if you never received the biometrics letter from USCIS.
Your only option after an abandoned or rejected immigration application would be to refile it (assuming you are still eligible), including paying new filing fees.
USCIS normally sends out biometrics notices within three to eight weeks of receiving an application. However, USCIS processing hasn't been "normal" in a long time, particularly owing to COVID-19 safety measures. Between office closures and restrictions on access, longer wait times to receive biometrics letters (not to mention eventual interviews or decisions from USCIS) are common.
The length of the wait also depends in part on what type of application you filed and where you filed it, since some USCIS offices are more backed up than others (particularly in highly populated areas of the United States).
The bottom line is that you should expect to wait several weeks, if not months to be called in to the ASC for biometrics. Local attorneys or immigration-service-providing nonprofits in your area should be able to give you a more precise estimate for your type of case.
Some applicants never receive a biometrics notice from USCIS at all.
If you have received neither a receipt notice for your application nor a biometrics notice in over three months, USCIS might have the wrong address on file. Contact USCIS at 800-375-5283 to see whether it can send the receipt notice and biometrics to the correct address. Using USCIS's telephone contact system is a challenge, unfortunately; expect to spend a lot of time interacting with an electronic voice before you can request a call-back from a live person.
What if you received your USCIS application receipt notice but never received a biometrics notice? In that case, it seems clear USCIS has the correct address for you; but perhaps the biometrics notice got lost in the mail. Again, you can contact USCIS by phone to request a new appointment date. Or, you can submit an e-request using the case number on your receipt with an online case inquiry.
It's also possible that you did not receive a biometrics notice because USCIS already has your biometric data on file. This could occur, for example, if you already went to a biometrics appointment within the last year, for example for renewing a green card, and then later filed for citizenship. If you are not sure whether USCIS already has your biometrics on file, contact the agency at 800-375-5283 for clarification.
Now let's look at a situation where you received a biometrics appointment notice from USCIS but missed your appointment at the ASC, perhaps because you were ill, forgot, or had transportation issues. In such a case, you will need to contact USCIS by phone (800-375-5283) or online case inquiry to request a new biometrics appointment letter. Be prepared to give a good reason for missing the ASC appointment, however. USCIS does not look kindly on people who simply fail to show up and then expect to be granted a reschedule.
In the past, a quicker option was to visit the ASC as a walk-in. The idea was to go to the office where the applicant had been scheduled, bring a copy of the biometrics notice as well as the documents listed on the notice, and explain to the officer why you missed the initial appointment. However, this was never guaranteed to work; USCIS is not required to take biometrics outside of the scheduled appointment time. And not surprisingly, it has been refusing to do so since the pandemic began.
Because of the pandemic, USCIS occasionally must close offices to the public. (Always check its information page on closures before setting out for an appointment.) If you can't attend your biometrics appointment because the ASC was closed that day, you don't need to do anything to follow up. USCIS will automatically send you a letter rescheduling. (Of course, if months go by with no new appointment letter, you will want to follow up as described elsewhere in this article.)
Do not ignore a second biometrics appointment notice from USCIS! It probably wasn't a mistake (though even if it was, skipping the appointment won't help matters). Most likely, USCIS is so backed up with applications that your fingerprints expired and you'll need new ones taken. According to USCIS policy, fingerprints are normally considered valid for 15 months after processing by the FBI.
If you live outside the United States and need to have your biometrics taken, the process is different. If you are applying for naturalization, you do not attend a biometrics appointment. Instead, you submit two passport-style photos of yourself and, in some cases, the Form FD-258 fingerprints card with your application. Contact your local U.S. consulate or embassy and go to the Ink Fingerprinting Overseas page of the State Department website for more information.
For applications besides naturalization, USCIS overseas field offices will only take biometrics in rare and exceptional circumstances. Plan any international travel accordingly.