Skip to main content

Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background

A. Purpose

As part of its administration of immigration benefits, USCIS has the general authority to require and collect biometrics, which include fingerprints, photographs, and digital signatures, from any person[1] seeking any immigration or naturalization benefit or request.[2]

B. Background

Biometrics collection allows USCIS to verify a person’s identity, produce secure documents, and facilitate required criminal and national security background checks to protect national security and public safety, as well as to ensure that the person is eligible for the benefit sought. Biometrics collection and security checks enhance national security and protect the integrity of the immigration process by ensuring that USCIS only grants benefits to eligible requestors.

In addition, depending on the particular application, petition, or request filed, USCIS conducts security checks, which may include conducting fingerprint-based background checks, requesting a name check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other DHS or inter-agency security checks.

The President has established priorities for enhancing national security and public safety by implementing uniform screening and vetting standards for all immigration programs.[3] Screening and vetting standards include those needed for identity verification, which is crucial to protect against fraud and help USCIS determine if a person is eligible to receive an immigration benefit. Historically, USCIS collected biometrics (including photographs) for background and security checks. Presently, biometrics are also stored and used to verify a person’s identity in subsequent encounters with DHS.

C. Legal Authorities

Footnotes


[^ 1] The term person includes any applicant, petitioner, beneficiary, sponsor, derivative, requestor, or person filing or associated with a benefit request.

[^ 2] The term biometrics refers to “the measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) or behavioral characteristics of a natural person, including the person’s fingerprints, photograph, or signature.”

[^ 3] See Executive Order 13780 (PDF), Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States, signed March 6, 2017.

Resources

Legal Authorities

8 CFR 103.16 - Collection, use and storage of biometric information

8 CFR 103.2 - Submission and adjudication of benefit requests

INA 103, 8 CFR 103 - Powers and duties of the Secretary, the Under Secretary, and the Attorney General

INA 105 - Liaison with internal security officers

INA 335, 8 CFR 335 - Investigation of applicants, examination of applications

Forms

No forms available at this time.

Appendices

No appendices available at this time.

Updates

Technical Update - Moving the Adjudicator’s Field Manual Content into the USCIS Policy Manual

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.

Technical Update - Use of Photographs as Biometrics

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is incorporating general information on USCIS’ use of photographs as biometrics.

Technical Update - Replacing the Term “Foreign National”

This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].