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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have announced plans to expand biometrics collection from individuals seeking US citizenship.

Under the new policy, the agencies will increase the amount of personal data collected from certain individuals upon entering the United States. Previously, biometrics data collection was limited to signatures, photographs, and fingerprints. The forthcoming rule adds retinal scans, voice prints, and photographs to the list of biometrics requirements. DNA data will also be collected and used to verify familial relationships. Additionally, more people will be required to provide biometrics. Under the policy changes, USCIS will collect biometrics from foreign nationals holding green cards or work permits. Biometrics may be collected at any point until they become US citizens. Minimum age requirements for biometrics collection will be eliminated. Biometrics are currently only required for individuals over the age of 14, but the amended policy would require biometrics from minors, too. Furthermore, the agencies’ policy requires biometrics from immigrant benefit recipients along with their US sponsors.

DHS and USCIS argue that the modified biometrics collection policy is a fast and efficient way to verify an individual’s identity while avoiding unnecessary physical contact. However, those opposed to the new policy argue that the proposed biometrics requirements will subject millions of individuals to continuous vetting. They add that the upcoming requirement for DNA collection will deter family-based applications because US legal permanent residents and US nationals may be unwilling to go through extensive biometrics exams to sponsor relatives. Additionally, opponents note that the agencies charge a fee for biometrics collection. They are concerned that the additional expenses for biometrics will create a financial burden on some applicants who are already facing increased application costs following USCIS’s fee increases.

DHS plans to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking soon. The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed rulemaking when it is published in the Federal Register.

CIP will provide updates as available.

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