DHS this week indicated that it was going to propose a rule expanding the use of biometrics in immigration cases. Currently, in cases in which background checks are required, DHS (and, by extension USCIS) requires biometrics (fingerprints and photos at this point) to be taken at the Application Support Centers across the US. The new rule would allow USCIS to begin capturing biometrics for ANY and all immigration cases it deems fit. In addition, it would expand the biometrics that are allowed to include DNA samples, iris scans, and any new technologies developed. Also (as if the above was not enough) the new rule would also remove any age limit on such collection (currency those under 14 do not have to have biometrics taken).
First, it is important to note that USCIS charges for taking biometrics. Most likely, if there are more types of biometrics being taken, that fee will go up and more people will be forced to pay for it. Second, no real reason was given for the increase in biometrics. Most likely it will be stated that they are trying to fight against fraud, etc. however there has certainly been no increase in immigration fraud and it remains extremely rare. Expending so much time and effort to fight something so small seems counter-intuitive. It seems much more likely that they feel such measures, especially the capturing of DNA information, will put up more barriers to people seeking to immigrate to the US. Unfortunately, this will affect ALL immigrants and non-immigrants who will be forced to pay for and give more biometrics information. It may also affect US Citizens who could be forced to give DNA information as well if they are sponsoring certain immigrants (to prove relationship). Again, USCIS already requires DNA samples in cases in which there is a likelihood of fraud (either the documentation submitted makes it appear as such or the Country in question has a record of allowing fraudulent documents). Why they need to expand this ability to other cases in which there is NO indication of fraud does not make sense. This is similar to the expansion of immigration interviews to ALL cases (when it use to be mainly used just for family-based cases). In the case of interviews, the explanation given was also to counter fraud (when there was very little fraud in employment-based cases to begin with). This policy has been put in place for several years now, however, there has been NO change in the number of fraudulent cases and no evidence that the policy has done anything to help in cutting down fraud. The problem with both these cases is, as stated above, that the goal seems more to slow down the process or frighten people off from using the process than it does to look for and weed out fraud.
In addition to the above, this would also add even more barriers to an already overtaxed agency to carry out its mission and resolve cases in a reasonable period of time. Timelines for cases have been steadily increasing and adding in the need to take more and more biometrics will slow down the process even more, creating bigger backlogs.
Here is the link to the news article that broke the story, which has since been picked up by others in the press:
Time will tell whether the current administration will actually be able to implement the policy and, even if they do, whether the next administration will continue the policy.
Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.