The United States welcomed about 76.9 million international tourist in 2017 alone. This represented an almost 0.7% hike from the 2016 levels, says an article by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, as a part of their World Tourism Barometer publication.
If you too are looking to visit the US, make sure you are familiar with the process of visa application, which is the first step to planning the trip. The biometric appointment is a key part of this process. Here’s a guide to this appointment.
How to Apply for a Visit Visa
While applying for a non-immigrant visit visa, the first step is to fill the DS-160 Form online. You can choose to fill and submit the form online or download it and submit a printed version in person. Remember, all information provided in this form will be verified by the US consular officers, so any inaccuracy, misrepresentation or incomplete information could lead to denial of visa.
On submitting the form, you will also need to pay a non-refundable visa application fee. The fee amount depends on the type of visa you have applied for. The receipt of payment is valid up to 1 year and is required for the next steps in the process.
Don’t forget to get insurance.
It is recommended that you get travel insurance when traveling to USA, as medical expense (even for common flu) can run into hundreds of dollars! Here are some of the best insurance for US visitors.
The next step is to schedule an appointment at your nearest Visa Application Service Center. A printed copy of the DS-160 form, which has a 10-digit bar code number, and you payment receipt are required for this. You will also need to schedule an appointment for the visa interview at the US consulate/embassy.
Information Required for Scheduling Biometric Appointment
- Your passport number
- The visa fee receipt
- The 10-digit bar code number from the DS-160 confirmation page.
Basics of the Biometric Service Appointment
Biometric information, including fingerprints and photographs, are collected at visa application center. Walk-in services are not available for this. You will need to schedule an appointment, as mentioned above. You can schedule the appointment at http://www.ustraveldocs.com/.
What is a Biometric Service?
According to the new rules, before you appear for your interview at the US consulate, you are required to provide your biometric information, irrespective of your nationality. This covers fingerprints and digital photographs. This is known as the Bio Visa program. No additional charges are levied for this appointment, since it is already included in the visa application fee. A sticker saying “Your appointment at USC is confirmed” is pasted on the appointment letter. The entire process takes only about 10 minutes.
How Is Biometrics Done?
Digital imprints of all 10 fingers are taken at the Visitor Visa Fingerprint Appointment. If any finger is missing, the imprints of the remaining fingers will be considered. To begin with, an imprint of the four fingers on your left hand will be taken, followed by the four fingers of your right hand. Finally, the imprints of your two thumbs will be taken. The fingerprints are required to verify your identity. When you arrive as the US port of entry, your fingerprints will be taken again and matched against those taken at the biometrics appointment. All data collected will be stored securely as part of your travel records.
However, the consulate has separate rules for those who cannot provide their fingerprints for various reasons, such as permanently handicapped fingers, burnt or scarred fingers and any other abnormality.
The next important thing is the digital photograph, which will be taken during the biometric process.
On the other hand, the photograph you attach with your application form needs to be one that has been taken within the last six months. It should meet certain criteria to save rejections.
The dimensions should be 600 x 600 pixels. The maximum you can extend is up to 1200 x 1200 pixels. Your face should be clearly visible, without any shadow on it or in the background. Your photo must show your entire face, starting from the top of your hair till the bottom of your chin. A neutral expression is mandatory.
Keep in mind, if you are renewing an old visa, your photo cannot be the same as the old one.
Documents Required for Visa Interview
- Passport, with a validity of six months beyond your intended period of stay in the US
- DS-160 confirmation page
- Appointment confirmation page
- Visa fee receipt
- The 10-digit bar code number on the DS-160 confirmation page
If an applicant is below 14 years of age, one photograph catering to all the requirements is required.
Supporting Documents Required for Visa Interview
- H, L, etc., petition-based visa applicants need to bring the I-797, I-129 and other documents. if any
- Students are required to bring the Students and Exchange Visitor Information System receipt
- Visitors under category J should bring their SEVIS receipt, along with their DS-2019 form
- C1D applicants must have a copy of their CDC and offer letter
- Technology and Science applicants are required to bring supporting documents to help reduce the processing time.
How to Prepare for Biometric Appointment
For the biometric appointment, it is important to keep a few things in mind, not following which can result in a canceled appointment. Make sure no henna decoration or stains are present on your fingers. If you have injuries, wait for them to heal before scheduling the appointment.
For the photograph, your face should be absolutely clear of any major bruises, resulting in partial disfiguration. The entire face should be visible clearly. This means you cannot wear glasses, sunglasses, caps or any other coverings that will hide any part of the face. Head coverings are allowed, as long as they are for cultural or religious reasons.
A few things to recheck before submitting the photo:
- The photo should be recent, taken within the last six months.
- Your image should be in the center of the frame.
- The background should be white or off-white, without any other objects.
- The eyes are open and clearly visible.
- You should be directly facing the camera, without tilting your head
- The photo should be sharp and free of any pixels or dots from printers
For newborns, it is fine if the eyes are not fully open. This photograph is taken to make sure that the infant was physically present at the time of the VAC appointment.
Why is Biometric Data Essential
Biometrics is one of the strongest authentication methods available today. It is an undeniable proof of an individual’s identity. America is constantly working towards strengthening the security of its border. Fingerprint recognition detects patterns present on the fingers that are unique to every individual, thereby verifying your identity.
Verification is required to confirm that the applicant and the visitor are the same person. The individual’s fingerprints are matched with the stored reference fingerprints. Biometrics are considered to reduce any risk of illegal entries in the US. Protection is used to prevent the use of stolen visas or the use of a legitimate visa by a terrorist or anyone who can be a threat to American citizens.
The Department of State and Homeland Security processes fingerprints to ensure security. Apart from this, biometrics helps to identify any citizen who has stayed for a longer period than permitted by their visa.
Eligibility For Biometrics
Except for applicants under A-3 and G-5, those traveling on official government business do not need to provide their fingerprints. Also, applicants under the age of 14 or above 80 need not provide fingerprints. They are not required to be present at the visa interview either. These applicants are eligible to submit the visa via the Interview Waiver program. However, all other rules, requirements and fees remain the same. Applications via the Visa Waiver Program do not guarantee visa issuance. If the data provided is incorrect, they might need to appear for the interview at the US consulate.
Children under 14 years of age must provide their parents’ valid passports and a valid US visa page. For applicants above 80 years, a recent visa application that was not refused on any grounds is essential. Children under the age of 7 are required to bring a physical photograph of themselves. Applicants under A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, C-3 and NATO are exempted from the biometrics process. However, if their purpose of visit is pleasure, they will need to go through the procedure.
What to do at the Biometrics Appointment
The working hours of the Visa Application Center are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm, and Sundays, 1 pm to 5 pm. The biometrics system is a worldwide program, applicable for all regions and countries.
The next step, after the entire biometrics process, is to appear for the visa interview at your nearest US embassy or consulate on the appointed date and time. If you fail to appear, you will be tagged as a “No Show” applicant and your visa receipt will get deactivated. You can only reactivate the receipt after two working days.
The number of days taken to process a visa application and receive an appointment date is between 7 to 10 working days. The entire process is not as complicated as it is made out to be. As long as you are honest and confident, and there is no mismatch between the verbal and documented information, there is no reason why a visa should be denied.