My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 3: Fingerprinting

The next step after accepting an application is to run a background check. These security checks typically include a fingerprint check, FBI name check and other fraud detection measures, and it all starts with a biometrics appointment.

On June 5, 2012 my online status indicated that USCIS has sent out the Biometrics Notification. On the 7th, I received it in the mail. It is a Form I-797C with a Code-3 appointment, scheduled for 6/25. Code-3 means I’ll have to provide all ten fingerprints and also take a digital photo.

I have a conflict next Monday. So I decided to try my luck and do a walk-in today. If rejected, I figured I could always re-schedule it then.

I arrived at the USCIS Application Support Center in San Marcos, CA just after 1pm. The office is located in a small shopping center just off Highway 78. When I got there the parking lot was quite full, so I was kind of expecting a big crowd. But to my surprise, there were only about five people waiting inside the room.

I handed my appointment notice to the officer at the front desk. He glanced over it and gave me a form to fill out, without asking any questions. He did remind me to turn off my cell phone, which I already left in my car.

It was a short questionnaire requesting some basic information, such as name, A-number, receipt number, DOB, citizenship, race, eye color, hair color, height and weight. In fact that was about it. It took me a couple minutes to finish the form, and the same officier verified the information against my appointment notice. He also asked to see my green card and driver’s license. The I-797 specifically said citizenship applicants must bring their green card, while other applicants only need to show their regular ID’s.

At this time I mentioned my original appointment was for next Monday but I couldn’t make it. He said no problem and gave me a ticket number along with a packet containing the biometrics notice, the questionnaire, my green card and driver’s license. He also gave me a printed booklet to study at home (M-638, Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test). In addition, he asked to see the front of my hands, apparently to check if there is anything that will interfere with collecting fingerprints.

I then sat down for just a couple minutes before my number was called.

Another officer/technician led me to a work station located in the same room. He scanned the two barcodes on the I-797 and manually typed in other information, including those I just put on the form. He then did a test run and said my fingerprints looked a bit light, so he started wiping my fingers as well as the scanner glass with a damped paper towel. Glad I didn’t eat pizza at lunch!

Once everything looked good he started the fingerprinting process, which was somewhat tedious: Four fingers on my left hand first, then left thumb, right four fingers, and finally right thumb. After that it was each finger individually, rolling from left to right while scanning. The next step was taking a digital photo. There was already a camera set up by the scanner so it was quick and easy. Finally, I signed my name on an electronic keypad. He double checked everything on the screen and told me it was done. I got the packet back (except for the questionnaire) and also filled out a short customer satisfaction survey.

So my walk-in biometrics appointment took about 15 mintues from start to finish – much better than I expected. The technician did mention that if I came in this morning I’d have to wait probably 30 – 50 minutes, so I guess it is YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). I’m glad this step is now over, and we’ll see how long it takes for my background check to clear.

Update 8/17/2012: Received interview notice in the mail today with interview scheduled for 9/18. Strangely, my online USCIS case status never changed. Lately I’ve been anxiously checking my case status nearly every day, but it has been stuck on Initial Review since June 5. Oh well, I won’t complain.

Entire N-400 Citizenship Application Process:

12 thoughts on “My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 3: Fingerprinting

  1. Pingback: My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 2: Acceptance | Immigration Road Blog

  2. Pingback: My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 1: Application | Immigration Road Blog

  3. Pingback: My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 4: Interview | Immigration Road Blog

  4. Pingback: My Journey to U.S. Citizenship – Step 5: Oath Ceremony | Immigration Road Blog

  5. rgl

    we have the same date for the ceremony… I hope it doesn’t take that long,
    as I have to bring my 1yr old son to the ceremony. I read on a post that
    it took 3 hrs for the ceremony to finish

  6. IR_Blog Post author

    The San Diego ceremony does take 2 – 3 hours from what I heard. It is not the ceremony itself that is taking so long, but rather the waiting to get in and also waiting for the certificate.

  7. SecaucusNJ

    Thank you for the meticulous and informative information. It’s almost like you were writing a diary as you waited. Congratulations on becoming a citizen! I received my fingerprinting appointment last week for Elizabeth NJ for 9/9 and I’m told Elizabeth doesn’t accept walk-ins so both me and my wife walked-in to the Jamaica NY USCIS on 8/26 and got done in less than an hour, it was 2:30p on a Monday for those considering a walk-in there. We both received an online notification today (8/28) that we’ve been put in queue for interview scheduling. From mailing our N400s to fingerprinting took more than 3 months for us – we were a couple months short of completing the full 5 years when we applied which could be the reason it took longer. Hope this is useful information for others. Thank you again IR_Blog for the wonderful blog.

  8. SecaucusNJ

    Thank you for the meticulous and informative blog. It’s almost like you were writing a diary as you waited. Congratulations on becoming a citizen! My wife and I received our fingerprinting appointments last week at Elizabeth NJ for 9/9. I’m told Elizabeth doesn’t accept walk-ins so we walked-in to the Jamaica NY USCIS on 8/26, no questions were asked and we got done in less than an hour. It was 2:30p on a Monday for those considering a walk-in there. We both received an online notification today (8/28) that we’ve been put in queue for interview scheduling. From mailing in our N400s to fingerprinting took more than 3 months for us – we were a couple months short of completing the full 5 years when we applied which could be the reason it took longer. Hope this is useful information for others. Thank you again IR_Blog for the wonderful blog.

  9. Aman

    Do they return the I-797 stamped form after fingerprinting or do they keep it? Please answer it.

    Thanks.

  10. Mesfin Almaw

    Update: As I posted last time my appointment for fingerprinting was on July 3, 2014 @ 11:00 a.m. So, I arrived at the USCIS Application Support Center in Denver, CO just before 11:00 a.m. The office is located in a small shopping center off Colfax Ave. There were only about ten people waiting inside the room.

    I handed my appointment notice to the officer at the front desk. She glanced over it and gave me a form to fill out.

    It was a short questionnaire requesting some basic information, such as name, A-number, receipt number, DOB, citizenship, race, eye color, hair color, height and weight. In fact that was about it. It took me a couple minutes to finish the form, and the same officer verified the information against my appointment notice. He also asked to see my green card and driver’s license. The I-797 specifically said citizenship applicants must bring their green card, while other applicants only need to show their regular ID’s.

    The officer told me to wait at the stop sign gave me back the biometrics notice, the questionnaire, my green card and driver’s license and told me to wait at the stop sign until I am called by the Technician.

    After a couple of minutes the technician called me to a work station located in the same room. She scanned the two barcodes on the I-797 and manually typed in other information, including those I just put on the form. She gave me a printed booklet to study at home (M-638, Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test) and started the fingerprinting process, which was somewhat tedious: Four fingers on my left hand first, then left thumb, right four fingers, and finally right thumb. After that it was each finger individually, rolling from left to right while scanning. The next step was taking a digital photo. There was already a camera set up by the scanner so it was quick and easy. Finally, I signed my name on an electronic keypad. She double checked everything on the screen and told me it was done. I got the appointment notice back (except for the questionnaire) and also filled out a short customer satisfaction survey.

    So my biometrics appointment took about 15 minutes from start to finish – much better than I expected. I’m glad this step is now over, and we’ll see how long it takes for my background check to clear.

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