Monday, October 29, 2012

Biometric Notices for All I-131 Applicants (GC Holder)

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 appointments.

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