USCIS Updates on Biometrics Appointment & Green Card Renewal [Jan 2021]

What Will Happen to Immigration?

During Trump’s presidency, biometric appointments have been taking a very long time to even get a notification of an appointment. Visas are delayed. Families and loved ones are separated for far longer than they thought they would be. Now that President Biden is sworn in, everyone’s asking us about processing times and if that’s going to change under Biden’s presidency.

Good News for Asylum Seekers

In a related item of interest, we have good news for asylum seekers. There were sweeping changes for asylum by the DOJ and DHS that were set to go into effect on January 11th. In essence, it would have ended asylum to the U.S. on January 8th, but a preliminary injunction was issued to completely stop these changes! The Judge’s reasons were because Wolf was not a duly authorized Acting Secretary and his actions were invalid.

This is the 5th Federal Court to say that Wolf was not acting legally and therefore the policies and rules that were put in place by him are stopped (at least temporarily). We presume with the changing of the administration any appeals for these decisions will be dropped and the policies will die and go away. We will keep you informed of what that means for you and your immigration journey.

Delayed Biometrics Appointments

We’ve been getting a lot of questions about not getting a biometrics appointment yet. We understand how frustrating it is. Usually once USCIS gets your application and accepts it, they send you a biometric appointment notice within 2-4 weeks.

Your biometric appointment, where they take your fingerprints and get other identifying information to do a background check, is often scheduled quite close to this date – for most parts of the country within a month.

Since COVID shut down many USCIS offices, all biometric appointments were cancelled. However, People have continued to apply for immigration benefits and a variety of factors slowed USCIS down. Now, over a million applicants for green cards, visas, and adjustment of status applications are waiting to get their biometrics done.

Unfortunately, USCIS won’t process your case until your biometrics are taken, so this is important for all those families. Your biometrics appointment will take place at an application support center (ASC). You will need to give your fingerprints, a photo, and your signature. You will receive an I-757C Notice of Action in the mail, and that will include the date, time and location of your appointment.

If you have an immigration attorney, they do not need to go with you to your appointment. The notice you get will also tell you what to bring with you. Be sure to bring a valid photo ID and copy (or copies, if you get several) of your appointment notice.

USCIS said that they will not accept any walk-ins to the ASC, so they won’t let you in if you do not bring a copy of your notice. Anyone 14 years or older must sign the documents to say that all the information is true and correct, and that they are who they say they are.

If you don’t understand English you can bring someone with you to interpret. You can also follow the instructions on the notice if you need to reschedule your appointment for a valid reason.

USCIS Processing Times

USCIS has said that they are slow right now with both rescheduling the cancelled appointments and processing the data they have received from those who already had their appointment.

USCIS said that 1.3 million applications are waiting for biometric data as of mid-December 2020. Almost 300,000 biometric appointments were cancelled between March and July of 2020.

ASC were reopened starting in July. However, because of COVID, lockdowns in states, and staffing shortages, ACS have been closed throughout the country.

Usually, when you go to a biometric appointment it only takes 10-15 minutes to gather the necessary information. After you leave, they send your fingerprints to a local law enforcement agency for the background check.

However, USCIS said they will now reuse previously collected biometrics data to speed up the process. Therefore, if you have had your fingerprints taken for USCIS before, they won’t make you do it again and they will waive this appointment. Note that if this is the case, you should expect to get a Form I-757 Notice of Action explaining that to you.

Not all applicants will have their biometrics waived even if you provided them before. They have an internal procedure for determining which applications they will waive or not. Once we find out more about that process, we’ll let you know.

If you don’t go to your biometrics appointment when it is scheduled, your case may be denied. In the past, if people missed their appointment, they could still go and get in line but that is no longer the case. Do not miss your biometric appointment. If you are going to miss it due to a medical reason, contact them before it is scheduled to have it rescheduled.

Green Card Renewals

 On January 12th, USCIS issued a statement about renewals for green cards. Previously, they would send you a sticker to put on your green card to extend the validity of your Form I-551.

Instead of a sending you a sticker, you will only receive a Form I-797 Notice of Action which you must carry along with your green card. Doing so will extend your green card’s validity for twelve months from the date on the front of your permanent resident card. Together (the green Card and the notice), these should be enough to advise others of your legal status.

There are two common situations where this typically happens. For example, you filed for your citizenship but it’s taken so long your green card is expiring. Or you filed to remove conditions on your green card and the case is pending, but your green card has expired. In the past you would request an appointment at your local USCIS field office and they would give you a sticker extending your green card.  Now they will only mail you the letter. 

You should not let your green card expire.  You need to either renew it with Form I-90, file for citizenship with form N-400, or remove conditions on your Green Card with Form I-751, depending on your situation. USCIS said that you should get the I-757 receipt notice within 7-10 days after USCIS accepts your application. This notice (printed on secure paper) will now be proof of your legal status.

If you have a biometrics appointment to renew your green card, they will still give you a sticker. But, if you have your green card and haven’t yet gotten a biometrics appointment, the receipt notice is your proof of receipt of the Form I-90 and the extension of your green card, for twelve months.

This gives you a document of identity, work authorization, and authorization to return to the US following temporary foreign travel. Remember you are never guaranteed re-entry, you must be admissible until you are a citizen.

Get Help From An Immigration Attorney!

At Andres Mejer Law, we’re immigrants for immigrants. We want you to have a better immigration journey than what we and our family went through. If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money. But if we can help you get legal status, we’ll do everything we can to make that happen. Call our office today to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced immigration attorney.

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