USCIS Announces Delays in Biometric Appointments Due to COVID-19
Earlier this month, U.S. immigration authorities provided the first-ever update about the situation at Application Support Centers, when United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced delays in issuing receipt notices for some applications filed at the USCIS lockbox facility. In a sense, the agency’s issues date back almost to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when in-person services at USCIS offices were canceled from March to June of 2020. Though the offices were opened subsequently, the delay in processing applications has been ongoing, as the agency is following safety measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. It is estimated that as of mid-December, more than a million immigrants currently in the United States, who have pending applications for the adjustment of status and other immigration benefits, were waiting for their biometric services appointments at their local Application Support Center (ASC). The ASC collects the immigrant’s fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature.
Thousands of Biometric Appointments Canceled
USCIS has canceled biometric appointments for thousands of immigrants but was expected to reschedule them once the agency got back to normal operations. This has not happened, however, leaving many applicants still waiting for their rescheduled appointment notices, thus causing their immigration status to be temporarily in limbo.
Immigration authorities report that they continue to experience delays in scheduling or rescheduling appointments at Application Support Centers to collect biometric data from applicants. But USCIS has announced that its workforce is working extra hours and redistributing its workload to minimize delays. The agency also pointed out that it did not anticipate delays beyond the payment validity date.
USCIS Cause for Delays
USCIS attributes the delays to the increases in filings, current postal services volume, and “other external factors.”
In addition, “[c]urrent processing times are affected by several variables including demand and capacity at individual ASCs,” according to a stakeholder message from the agency’s Public Engagement Division.
USCIS announced the delay to be four to six weeks for receipt notices and acknowledged that the timeline may vary according to the type of petition/application and location of the lockbox. The Agency acknowledged lengthier delays for non-family-based adjustment of status applications and employment authorization for F-1 students. It further announced that the receipt notices do not affect the “receipt date” of the applications and the petitions.