For certain types of immigration petitions, such as if you are adjusting status in the U.S., you will first have to attend a biometrics appointment before USCIS can approve your petition. Due to COVID-19, there are significant backlogs in scheduling biometrics appointments and you may wait several months to attend a biometrics appointment.
What is a biometrics appointment?
This is an appointment at a local USCIS Application Support Center (“ASC”), where you will have to provide your fingerprints, photograph, and your signature. This will allow USCIS to conduct the required background and security checks before your application is approved.
When should I receive the Biometrics appointment notice?
Prior to COVID-19 global pandemic, the biometrics appointments were usually scheduled within 90 days of filing the application. During the pandemic in 2020, the ASC offices were completely shut down for several weeks/months, meaning that no biometrics appointments were conducted at this time. This created a huge backlog of approximately 280,000 appointments that were cancelled and needed/still need to be rescheduled.
What is USCIS doing to address this situation?
On May 17, 2021, USCIS temporarily suspended the biometrics requirement for the following types of petitions:
- Extension of stay in or change of status to H-4 nonimmigrant status;
- Extension of stay in or change of status to L-2 nonimmigrant status;
- Extension of stay in or change of status to E-1 nonimmigrant status;
- Extension of stay in or change of status to E-2 nonimmigrant status (including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)); or
- Extension of stay in or change of status to E-3 nonimmigrant status (including those selecting E-3D).
This new rule will be in effect until May 17, 2023 (or until it’s suspended by USCIS). USCIS believes that by not requiring biometrics from these applicants, this may speed up the backlogs at some local ASC offices.
Additionally, USCIS can re-use your previous biometrics if you provided them sometimes in the past. We recently had a case where we filed an I-751 petition and USCIS indicated that they will re-use client’s old biometrics.
On group of applicants that still has to attend the biometrics and faces huge backlogs are Adjustment of Status applicants. In order to get the work authorization and travel authorization approved, the applicant has to attend the biometrics appointment. We have heard of some situations when USCIS approved the work and travel authorization card without biometrics, but that has been an exception rather than a rule.
Is there any way to expedite the biometrics appointment?
Unfortunately, no. There is no way how to expedite your biometrics appointment. In most cases you will have to wait until you receive the biometrics notice from USCIS. That being said, if you case has been pending for a long time and is outside the normal processing time you could try submitting an e-request, filing a request with USCIS ombudsman, or filing a mandamus petition. This could potentially speed up the process, including scheduling your biometrics appointment.
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