Currently, applicants have experienced delays in scheduling or rescheduling application support center (ASC) appointments to collect biometrics. Several variables including demand and capacity at individual ASCs have affected the current processing times. We, at Emandi Law Firm, have compiled important information that could help you understand what to expect with your biometrics appointment:
1. Safely Reopening ASCs
USCIS canceled approximately 280,000 appointments and temporarily suspended in-person services between March and June to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and ensure employee and applicant safety. In July, USCIS began a phased reopening of ASCs after the agency installed protective screens and incorporated proper social distancing measures across 132 sites. Since reopening, there have been sporadic and temporary ASC closures for reasons such as local stay-at-home orders, COVID-19-related cleaning, and extreme weather. By late October, the agency increased ASC operations to approximately 65 percent of pre-COVID levels.
2. Priority of ASC Appointments
Biometrics appointments are scheduled based on the prioritization of benefit types, considering adjudication capacity and processing times. Within a benefit type, USCIS generally schedules appointments on a first-in, first-out basis. The wait time for appointments will vary geographically, based on capacity and varying demand at individual ASC locations.
3. Current State
Currently, USCIS is working to safely maximize appointment capacity at ASCs and is also reusing previously collected biometrics to conduct background and security checks when authorized by law. Based on capacity limitations unique to each ASC, the agency has not rescheduled all canceled appointments. USCIS is scheduling approximately 10,400 appointments per day. Approximately 1.3 million applications are awaiting biometrics appointments as of mid-December. Applicants should continue to wait for an ASC appointment notice or a Form I-797, Notice of Action, from USCIS indicating that their previously collected biometrics may be reused.
4. Biometrics Reuse
USCIS is reusing biometrics under limited circumstances, where USCIS must verify an individual’s identity and the case is otherwise ready to adjudicate. If USCIS will reuse biometrics for a pending application, the agency will mail a Form I-797 notice to the applicant stating that we will be reusing the applicant’s biometrics and that the applicant is not required to appear at an ASC. Not all applications meet the requirements for biometrics reuse.
Due to COVID facility constraints, USCIS cannot process walk-ins for biometrics collection except for military applicants and their family members when the principal applicant is scheduled for an appointment. Before visiting any USCIS facility, applicants should check the USCIS Office Closings webpage for the current operating status.