U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has updated some of its policies relating to the collection of biometric information. The organization notes that it requires biometric data from those submitting formal immigration requests, and that it then uses that biometric information to carry out background checks and for basic identity verification.
The new policy guidelines specifically concern the agency’s mobile collection services. As it stands, US immigrants need to make an official appointment to have their biometric information gathered at an Applicant Support Center (ASC). However, the agency will make exceptions for those with a disability or another medical issue, and offer mobile services to those who are physically unable to make it to an ASC.
While that remains the case for people with legitimate medical conditions, the new guidelines clarify that USCIS will not make the same concessions for those who have been incarcerated. USCIS will not make special arrangements for someone who cannot make an appointment because they are in prison.
That policy does not apply to people who have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security, who will still have their biometric information collected by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during their time with DHS.
USCIS also cleared up its waiver policy, which allows USCIS to waive the fingerprint requirement for those who cannot provide a fingerprint due to a medical condition. The updated policy stresses that each waiver is linked to one (and only one) application, so a waiver that was granted in one instance will not cover any other filings with USCIS in the future. Anyone hoping to forego the fingerprint check the second time around would need to ask for another waiver, which can only be granted by select USCIS employees.
The new policy tweaks are relatively minor, though it is worth noting that immigration officials have drawn some criticism for their collection and use of biometric information in the past. In August, the DHS revealed that the UNHCR has been sharing the biometric profiles of refugees. Those profiles are being vetted by USCIS and stored on Homeland Security’s IDENT database.
February 3, 2020 – by Eric Weiss