Where do I go to get fingerprinted for my application for permanent legal residence in the U.S.?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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As you are completing your forms to obtain permanent legal status or naturalization, you will notice several instructions regarding fingerprint cards. You do not submit a card with your citizenship application. Any fingerprint cards submitted with your application will be rejected. After the INS receives your application, the INS officer will instruct you where to go to be fingerprinted. The INS only accepts fingerprints from an authorized fingerprint site. Even though the local sheriff’s department probably fingerprints people on a daily basis, they are not an authorized site. Thus, the INS will not accept a fingerprint card made by their department. The INS officer processing your application will usually make your fingerprinting appointment for you. Failure to attend your appointment could result in a delay, and even denial of your application. With some exceptions, you will be required to pay a fee for the fingerprint card. Usually around $80, the fee is due at the time of your appointment. After you are fingerprinted, your card is submitted electronically to the FBI.

Why Do I Need to Get Fingerprinted?

The fingerprint card is used for several purposes. The main purpose of the fingerprint card is to facilitate an accurate criminal background check. The FBI maintains a national database of criminal arrests and convictions by name and print. For example, if you have a previous conviction in Texas with the last name “Martinez-Herrera,” and a subsequent conviction in Oklahoma under the last name “Herrera,” the FBI will maintain a single file on your history because of the fingerprint card obtained through each respective arrest. (Even if the two states were not aware of the convictions under differing names.) The second purpose is to prevent fraud. Namely, the fingerprint card will show that someone has previously filed an application under a different name. Fraud can be the basis of a denial of an application for permanent legal status or naturalization.

Once you pass your criminal background check, the INS will direct you on where to go for your citizenship interview so that your application can continue.

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Don’t Leave Anything Out

Everyone makes mistakes and most people do not like to divulge their criminal history. However, it is extremely important that you disclose your complete criminal history on your application. If the FBI criminal history check reveals that you omitted portions of your history, your application for permanent residency or naturalization could be denied because of intentional omissions on your application. If you don’t understand a form or have questions about how to complete a section, contact an immigration attorney for assistance.

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