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:
- Step 1: Application
- Step 2: Acceptance
- Step 3: Fingerprinting (this post)
- Step 4: Interview
- Step 5: Oath Ceremony