The Nebraska Service Center (NSC) of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that, regardless of age, all applicants who file for reentry permit or refugee travel document (Form I-131) are being issued biometric appointment notices. The purpose of these biometric appointments is to capture a digital photograph of applicants who are not required to submit fingerprints. These NSC statements came in response to questions submitted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Background: I-131 Applications
Form I-131 is used when applying for several different types of
travel documents. The matters discussed here, however, are limited to
I-131 applications filed by lawful permanent residents ("green card"
holders) in order to obtain reentry permits and I-131 applications filed
by refugees in need of travel documents. Reentry permits are needed when permanent residents plan to remain
outside of the United States for more than one year.
Refugee travel documents are required if an individual holding
refugee or asylee status wishes to travel abroad and return to the
United States as a refugee or asylee. It is also used by foreign
nationals who obtained permanent residence through asylee or refugee
status, as an alternative to a passport.
Fingerprinting Not Required for I-131 Applicants of Certain Ages
The USCIS has indicated in written instructions that applicants under
the age of 14 or over the age of 79 do not need to be fingerprinted or
pay the additional biometric fee with their I-131 applications. Neither
do these applicants need to submit paper photographs with their I-131
filings. Some questions arose, therefore, when these individuals began
receiving biometric notices. The NSC informed AILA in September 2012
that the purpose for these individuals' biometric appointment notices is
to capture digital photographs, which make it easier for the USCIS to
produce the requested travel documents.
Paper Photographs May Still be Submitted with I-131s
AILA asked the NSC if fingerprint-exempt I-131 applicants could avoid
the need for biometrics appointments by submitting two paper
photographs along with their I-131 applications. The NSC confirmed that
this is possible for applicants under 14 or over 79 years of age. If
such applicants submit immigration compliant photographs at the time of
the I-131 filing, this eliminates their need for biometrics