USCIS: Fingerprinting Required for All Naturalization Applicants
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this week announced an update to the agency’s policy regarding the naturalization process, clarifying that all applicants—regardless of age—must submit to fingerprinting. Prospective naturalized citizens may still qualify for a waiver of this requirement on medical grounds.
Individuals petitioning for immigration benefits aside from naturalization should be aware that this policy clarification does not affect any other existing biometrics requirements associated with their application categories.
For nearly 20 years, USCIS policy permitted naturalization applicants who were age 75 or older to bypass the fingerprinting step. The rationale for this allowance stemmed from the “difficulty in capturing readable fingerprints” from elderly individuals. But according to USCIS, advances in technology, combined with a more robust electronic application system, have resulted in more easily obtaining readable fingerprints for all age groups. As a result, all applicants must now provide biometrics, which USCIS stated will enhance its ability to conduct background checks and to confirm the identities of applicants.
Per USCIS policy, applicants for naturalization provide their biometrics during an appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). In addition to fingerprinting, the biometrics process includes obtaining an applicant’s photographs and signature. After the appointment, fingerprints are forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which runs criminal and administrative background checks on applicants. Once processed by the FBI, fingerprints are valid for 15 months. Naturalization applicants cannot complete the requisite interview until their biometrics are obtained and subsequent background and security checks are completed.
The importance of the biometrics requirement cannot be overstated: applicants who fail to appear for their ASC appointments without good cause and without notifying USCIS will be deemed to have abandoned their naturalization petitions.
The updated policy will not affect prospective naturalized citizens whose medical conditions—for example, birth defects, physical deformities, or psychiatric disorders—prevent them from complying with the biometrics requirement. USCIS officers are permitted to grant waivers to these applicants on a discretionary basis, but only after an officer has met with the applicant; an officer or a technician has attempted to obtain fingerprints to no avail; and an officer has ultimately concluded that an applicant cannot submit a single readable fingerprint.
Denials of biometrics waivers cannot be appealed. When a waiver is granted, however, applicants are required to submit additional materials: in lieu of fingerprints, USCIS requires local police clearance letters. This supplemental documentation serves to attest to an applicant’s good moral character.
In its policy update, USCIS stated that adjudicating officers will continue to make “special arrangements” to accommodate applicants who are homebound or hospitalized and therefore unable to attend an ASC appointment. Applicants who require an accommodation—for instance, an in-home appointment—should submit medical documentation verifying their need to their local field office, and can officially request the accommodation online or by calling the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800 375-5283.
Our Firm is Here to Help
For more than two decades, the experienced immigration attorneys at Zhang & Associates have successfully guided thousands of clients through the naturalization process, and we have extensive experience in obtaining medical waivers. In light of the updated policy, we will strive to ensure our qualifying elderly or disabled clients receive any and all accommodations to which they are entitled.
And for more information and analysis on naturalization, refer to our webpages here.
Former U.S. Consular officer, Attorney Sechyi Laiu joined Zhang & Associates, P.C. on June 26, 2017
At Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu specializes on Consular Processing cases and business development. Attorney Laiu also focuses on TN visas, E visas, CBP administrative proceedings (monetary confiscation, deferred inspection), and overseas financial compliance.
Prior to joining Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Chinese and Portuguese speaking diplomat. As a consular-coned officer who served in Vancouver (Canada), Shenyang (P.R. China), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Attorney Laiu processed over 30,000 visa cases and worked in every section of Consular Affairs overseas (Fraud Prevention Unit, Immigrant Visas, Non-Immigrant Visas, and American Citizen Services).
He will use his experience and expertise to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.
Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients worldwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled over ten thousand immigration cases.
At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, EB-5, PERM, I-485 I-130, H-1B, O, L and J cases. In the past twenty-one years, we have successfully helped over ten thousand clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang (email@example.com) for a free evaluation.
Zhang & Associates, P.C.