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USCIS has problems collecting biometrics: why is it beneficial for immigrants

It has become a nightmare for hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the United States, who have seen their immigration processes stalled while they await appointments to provide fingerprints, photographs, and signatures to federal authorities. But in the end, some immigrants have benefited from this delay. How it happened, said the publication Miami Herald.

Photo: Shutterstock

Immigration officials acknowledged that the temporary closure and capacity limitation of local application support centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a "significant number of immigrants" waiting to be assigned to collect biometric data.

As the accumulation of such cases has led to delays in processing immigration forms in general, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that suspends biometric requirements for certain applicants completing one of the most common immigration forms to renew or change their status. This suspension will last until May 2023.

“The significant backlog of status change cases (Form I-539) greatly impacts the time frame for USCIS to process appropriate work permit applications,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a press release.

The collection of biometric data usually takes 15 to 20 minutes. Later, the information is sent to law enforcement agencies for a criminal check. Biometrics is also one of the 10 steps required for permanent residents of the United States to obtain citizenship by naturalization.

On the subject: How to Recognize Immigration Fraud and Protect Yourself: USCIS Recommendations

According to USCIS, the temporary suspension of biometric data collection applies to applicants filing Form I-539 (Application for Renewal / Change of Nonimmigrant Status) in the following visa categories:

  • H-4 visa for spouses or children under 21 of H-1B visa holders
  • L-2 visa for spouses or children under the age of 21 - L-1B visa holders
  • E-1 visa for citizens of countries with which the United States has signed a trade and shipping treaty
  • E-2 visa for investors, including E-2C (E-2 CNMI Investor)
  • E-3 visa for professional workers from Australia

The Immigration Office said the suspension applies to those in the above categories, whose applications either:

  • Pending review as of May 17, 2021 and have not yet received a notice of admission to the biometric service.
  • New applications submitted on or after May 17, 2021.

“Applicants who meet the above criteria are not required to pay a biometric service fee of $ 85 during the suspension period. USCIS will refund the fee for biometric services if it is filed separately from the base fee, ”the department explained.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York

A few months ago, USCIS announced that, given the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, when permitted by law, the agency is going to reuse previously collected biometric data so that some immigrants have the opportunity to skip biometric submissions.

USCIS is gradually rolling back some changes made during the Donald Trump administration since US President Joe Biden signed an executive order to rebuild the immigration system.

Most recently, DHS revoked a proposed rule that would expand department powers and biometric collection requirements to include an iris image, a palm print, and an immigrant's voice.

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