The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires green card and naturalization applicants to be fingerprinted for the purpose of conducting FBI criminal background checks.
- Submit application.
If fingerprints are required for the application, submit your application with the biometric fee so that the USCIS can take your fingerprints.
Biometric fee details
Do not submit a FD-258 (fingerprint card) with your application. Otherwise, the card will be rejected, and you will still be scheduled to be fingerprinted by the USCIS.
- Receive an appointment letter from USCIS.
After the USCIS receives your application, they will send you an appointment letter with the location of the nearest USCIS-authorized fingerprint site. To better ensure both the quality and integrity of the process, the USCIS processes fingerprint cards for immigration benefits only if an authorized fingerprint site prepares them.
Make sure to read the instructions in the appointment letter. Take it to the USCIS-authorized fingerprint site when you go to your fingerprint appointment on the date and time specified on the appointment letter.
A van will come to certain areas located far away from the nearest fingerprinting location. The appointment letter from the USCIS will notify you if a van serves your area.
- Go to the fingerprinting location.
Take the appointment letter from the USCIS and other evidence as mentioned in the letter, such as your passport, permanent resident card, driver’s license, etc. Your second form of identification should have your photograph on it.
- Get your fingerprints taken.
At the time of fingerprinting, you will be given a form to fill out. You will have to indicate the application for which the fingerprinting is being done because there are many green card categories, naturalization categories, etc., that require fingerprinting.
Most sites use electronic technology to take fingerprints without ink.
The USCIS will send your fingerprints to the FBI for a criminal background check. The FBI, in some cases, may reject your fingerprints because of the quality of the fingerprints. If your fingerprints are rejected by the FBI, the USCIS will notify you and schedule another appointment. You will not have to pay the fee again.
If the FBI rejects your fingerprints twice, you may be asked to provide police clearances for each place you have lived in the past 5 years. You will need to contact the appropriate police department(s) in the place(s) you have lived to get these clearances.
- Mail additional documents if the USCIS requests them.
Sometimes, the USCIS may need additional documents from you before they can schedule your interview. The USCIS will notify you of what is needed and where to send them.
- Wait for the USCIS to schedule your interview.
Once the FBI check is cleared, the USCIS will schedule you for an interview. The USCIS will send you an interview notice in the mail that will specify the date, time, and place of interview.
Generally, the fingerprints are considered good for at least 15 months. If the case has still not been completed after that time, the applicant may be asked to get fingerprinted again.
It is impossible to understand the logic of expiring fingerprints. Fingerprints never change. The purpose of taking fingerprints is so that FBI can run a background check against their database to see if you have committed any crimes in the past. If fingerprints were to expire or change, that would defeat the purpose of taking them at all.
It is certainly possible that if a long time has passed since your background check and if the application is still pending, you may have committed a crime in the meantime. Because that can be easily checked using the fingerprints that they already have, why take fingerprints again?
Anyways, this is the USCIS, and many times, logic does not work here.
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Fingerprint Status Check
Fingerprints taken by the USCIS go to the FBI for background checks. The FBI is very efficient by processing and sending them to USCIS within 3-4 weeks. Once your fingerprints are taken, you can check with the FBI as to whether your background has been checked and your fingerprint report has been sent back to the USCIS or not. The FBI does not tell you whether the fingerprints were rejected or whether they found anything negative about you.
The FBI can be reached either at 304-625-5590 or 304-625-2406. They are located in West Virginia, and it is the same number for the entire U.S. If a representative answers the phone, they can tell you about your case immediately. If no one picks up the phone, you may leave a message giving your spelled-out name, contact phone number, and Alien Number. They are usually prompt in returning phone calls.
If the FBI cannot track your details, you may need to contact the USCIS office where you were fingerprinted to find out your status.
- Applicants and petitioners residing abroad who are fingerprinted at a United States consular or military installation abroad do not need to be fingerprinted by the USCIS and are exempt from the fingerprint fee. These applicants and petitioners must file their completed card at the time their application or petition is filed.
- Applicants for a Form I-589, Application for Political Asylum, do not have to pay a biometric fee.
- Applicants filing initial registrations of a Form I-817, Application for Family Unity Benefits under the Family Unity Program, must follow the same procedure as above. However, applicants filing extensions need not be fingerprinted but do not have to pay a biometric fee.
- Applicants filing initial registrations or extensions of a Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status, must pay the biometric fee each time. The rest of the procedure is the same as described above.
- A Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative (Orphan Petition), and Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition (Advance Processing Application):
Prospective adoptive parents and all adult members (18 years of age and older) of the household must go through the fingerprinting process as described above. This is required by the USCIS to determine the ability of prospective adoptive parents to provide a proper home environment to an orphan and their suitability as parents.
Each adult has to pay a separate biometric fee.
An I-600 cannot be approved without completing the fingerprinting process. The processing and adjudication of I-600 and I-600A is a high priority for the USCIS. Therefore, every required adult household member will be scheduled for a fingerprinting appointment on an accelerated schedule.
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