Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has experienced long delays in scheduling biometrics appointments at Application Support Centers (ASC) around the country. USCIS temporarily suspended in-person services between March and June of 2020 to ensure the safety of employees and applicants amid the spread of COVID-19.
As a result of the pandemic, USCIS cancelled roughly 280,000 biometrics appointments. In July of 2020, USCIS offices began reopening with limited capacity after taking safety precautions including installing protective screens and ensuring compliance with social distancing guidelines. From July to September of 2020, Application Support Centers were operating at or below 50% capacity. By October 2020, operating capacity increased to 65% of pre-COVID levels.
To avoid further delays in the capture of biometrics, USCIS has began reusing previously captured biometrics when possible to conduct background checks on applicants. As of December 29, 2020, USCIS has not rescheduled all previously cancelled biometrics appointments. USCIS is currently scheduling approximately 10,400 appointments per day, while over 1 million applicants are still waiting for biometrics appointments.
USCIS is currently scheduling biometrics appointments based on the type of benefit being sought and generally on a first-in, first-out basis. Wait times vary among USCIS offices around the country. USCIS is also no longer processing walk-in appointments for biometrics collection. How the spread of COVID-19 unfolds in the coming months will determine if USCIS delays will continue or whether Application Support Centers can increase their operating capacity throughout the country.