Biometric checks and change of address are two requirements in US immigration for various purposes. In fact, there are only a few circumstances where they are not utilised.
The biometric check is required for persons seeking immigration benefits, such as adjustment of status and naturalisation. The biometric check requires payment of the relevant fees (note that if United States Citizen and Immigration Services [USCIS] deems that no biometrics are required because they will utilise the biometrics already on record, the biometric fee will not be refunded).
The biometric check comprises a criminal background check and a security check.
The applicant is requested, by written notice, to appear for the biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Centre on a specific date and time. The applicant must take the notice and relevant identification for the appointment.
At the centre, there is the collection of fingerprints, eye scans, photographs as well as signatures. The physical biodata would have already been requested on the application form (sex, age, race, height, weight, eye colour, and hair colour).
There is also a “name check” request from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This is the reason the various immigration applications ask applicants to note “all other names” used throughout their lives.
There is no innate assumption of wrongdoing if an applicant has used other names in the past, so an applicant must write down all such other names.
Specifically, for naturalisation, there are also other inter-agency criminal background and security checks on all applicants, as this is the final opportunity that the USCIS will have to consider all aspects of an applicant’s character for citizenship.
All biometric checks must be completed before the specific application because they form part of the application. If an applicant cannot attend the biometrics appointment, there is a procedure to request a new date to ensure that the application’s status is preserved.
If an applicant does not attend this biometrics appointment, s/he might be considered as having abandoned the application.
Some categories of applicants may be exempt from the biometric check. These include the very elderly, as well as those with specific illnesses that prevent a proper biometric from being fully completed or completed at all.
There is a waiver form that must be completed for appropriate consideration by USCIS.
After the biometrics have been completed, these are submitted to the FBI, which conducts the criminal background check.
The report from the FBI can indicate that the applicant has no administrative record or no criminal record; it can also indicate that there is a record found and give details.
Biometric records that an applicant deems incorrect, inaccurate or incomplete can be challenged at various levels, as the inaccurate record can lead to denial of the specific benefit.
USCIS has the authority to request biometrics from any applicant, petitioner, sponsor or beneficiary who is in the US. In fact, certain groups of petitioners usually will be asked for biometrics (such as those who have had negative criminal law interaction in the past).
Change of address
Regarding a change of address, every non-citizen in the US who has some type of lawful status is required to submit to USCIS, their new address, within 10 days of moving to a new permanent address. These include lawful permanent residents and students on student visas as well as those on work permits.
People sometimes think that changing their address with the post office means that it is changed with USCIS. That is incorrect. USCIS has their own form that must be completed and the post office and USCIS systems don’t synchronise, so the change has to be made at both places.
USCIS has now provided an online change of address form that can be utilised by those who need it.
*This article does not constitute legal advice and is intended for informational purposes only.
Nadine C Atkinson-Flowers is admitted to practice in the USA and Jamaica. Her US practice is in the area of immigration, while her Jamaican practice areas include immigration and general legal consultancy. She has been an attorney for over 15 years in Jamaica and has written articles for several legal publications. She is passionate about access to justice issues and volunteers with several legal, business, children and community service organisations in Jamaica and the US. She can be contacted at [email protected]