The Fingerprinting Requirement for Citizenship Applications Under Naturalization Law
USCIS Collects Fingerprints and Photographs During the Biometrics Services Appointment
Part of applying for U.S. citizenship involves going through a criminal background check. USCIS will need to get the fingerprints of a foreign national and send them to the FBI and other government agencies to check for records matching the fingerprints. The FBI will use its National Name Check Program to search for the applicant’s name in law enforcement records. The foreign national will need to clear this background check before going through their naturalization interview. In some cases, the applicant will need to redo their fingerprints because the scan will not be clear enough for the FBI to determine whether the fingerprints match a record. The FBI background search remains valid for 15 months. The foreign national will need to go through another background search if they do not receive their citizenship before the 15 months expire.
Meeting the Fingerprinting Requirement
Gathering fingerprints, photographs, and the signature of the foreign national collectively are known as biometrics. An applicant of any age will need to provide biometrics during the naturalization process. USCIS will ask you to undergo fingerprinting at an application support center in your area. You must appear at the appointment unless you give USCIS a good reason for not appearing. A failure to appear usually will result in USCIS discarding your application.
Biometrics = fingerprints, photographs, and signatures
While application support centers offer accommodations for people with disabilities, some foreign nationals may be hospitalized, confined to their home, or otherwise unable to go to the center because of a disability. They will not be excused from the biometrics requirement in this situation. Once they inform USCIS about their limitations, a representative of USCIS will come to their home or the hospital to collect their biometrics. (The foreign national might need to provide documentation supporting their request, in addition to their appointment notice.)
Inability to Provide Fingerprints
An applicant must be granted a fingerprint waiver from USCIS before they may follow alternative procedures.
Sometimes a medical condition, deformity, skin condition, psychiatric condition, or birth defect will prevent a foreign national from providing fingerprints. USCIS will need to make the determination of whether an applicant can be fingerprinted. This will require attempting to take the foreign national’s fingerprints in person first. If the condition is temporary, the foreign national must wait until it resolves before providing their fingerprints. If the fingerprints do not seem clear to the USCIS officer, they still will attempt to take them.
A foreign national who cannot be fingerprinted must submit police clearance letters from every place where they have lived during the last five years, or three years if the three-year residency requirement applies to them. (This most often applies to a foreign national spouse of a U.S. citizen.) They will need to provide a statement under oath regarding any criminal record during the five-year or three-year period.