Massive Backlogs In Biometric Appointment Scheduling, Says USCIS

Biometric appointments required for certain benefit applications are facing major delays and appointment scheduling has been incessantly backlogged. Presently, biometric appointments are being issued only 7-11 months after the submission of the underlying benefit application.

USCIS stated that while most filed offices and Application Support Centers (ASC) are scheduling approximately 10,400 appointments per day, there are still approximately 1.3 million more applicants still awaiting their biometrics appointments.

Must Know: How To Schedule A Biometric Appointment

U.S. Immigration Applications Requiring Biometrics

  • Applications to adjust to permanent resident status;
  • Applications to extend nonimmigrant visa; 
  • Applications for employment authorization documents; 
  • Applications for change of status;
  • Travel authorization

The Covid-19 pandemic caused a many field offices to shut down and ASC to work with minimum personnel and maximum social distancing. This caused severe disruptions in their operations. Over 300,000 ASC appointments were canceled between March and June 2020. Once the infection rate reduced slightly in July, operations resumed and now the offices are functioning at 60% capacity.
USCIS Office Reopened – THIS Is What You Should Know

In certain circumstances, USCIS can reuse previously submitted biometrics. This could be either for a primary application or for a totally different application. However, some of the critical ones like Employment Authorization Document (EAD), visitor visa extensions, H4 dependent visas, and reentry permits for eligible green card holders.

Who Is Impacted By The Biometric Delays?

In normal, pre-covid conditions USCIS would schedule biometric appointments within a month of submitting the application. But the current delays in scheduling ASC appointments to collect biometrics have resulted in lengthier processing times of the following applications:

  • B2 Visitor Visa Extensions

For those stranded in the U.S. due to the pandemic, DHS allowed for overstaying their stay if they apply for an extension on their B2 visitor visa in a timely manner. 

Now I-539 applicants (B2 visa extension form) requiring biometrics are facing an indefinite delay to their processing. 

Current processing times for B2 visitor visa extensions is 22 months.

  • I-765: EAD Processing

Due to biometric delays, the EAD adjudication is also affected. Consequently, this is rendering the H4 EAD worker ineligible to work while they await waiting their renewed EAD.

  • Change of Status

H4 and L2 dependent visa holders have provide their biometrics independent of the primary beneficiary. Any of these categories looking for an extension or change of status is dealing with the bottle neck of the delayed biometric processing. Premium processing is not available to them anymore.

Current processing times for change of status applications is over 6 months.

  • Reentry Permits For Green Card Holders

Green card holders wanting to stay outside the U.S. for an extended period of time need to file for an I-131 to be allowed to reenter the country. This also includes a biometric procedure. However, due to the massive delays, green card holders wanting to travel abroad are stuck in the U.S. and unable to leave until they have the biometric completed.

What Should U.S. Immigration Applicants Do If They Are Stuck Due To Biometric Processing Delays

  1. Applicants should continue to file all their paperwork in a timely manner. USCIS is attempting to accelerate their processing times and schedule more biometric appointments daily.
  2. Applicants should expect lengthier-than-normal processing times for most benefit applications and plan accordingly.
  3. If you haven’t heard back from ASC or don’t see your case status moving after 4-6 months, call your nearest field office, and make an InfoPass appointment to check status of your application.