Overview on the security check process for US citizenship.



For naturalization applicants need to undergo background checks and as part of the process USCIS must collect fingerprint records. Generally fingerprints need not be submitted by applicants of US citizenship who are 75 years of age and older. Once the applicant submits the US citizenship application USCIS notifies them in writing to appear for fingerprinting. From the date of processing by the FBI fingerprints are valid for 15 months.  If the applicant does not appear for the fingerprinting appointment without a valid reason and also without prior information to USCIS it’s considered that an applicant abandons his or her naturalization application.

The applicant’s biometrics once collected by an Application Support Center (ASC) for a full criminal background check USCIS submits the records to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Following confirmations are included in the response from the FBI that a full criminal background check has been completed:

  • No administrative or a criminal records the applicant has
  • Yes administrative or a criminal record(s) the applicant has; or
  • Fingerprint records have been determined “unclassifiable” for the purpose of conducting a criminal background check of the applicant’s report submitted and the records have been rejected.

Who can get fingerprint waivers?

Aged applicants: At the time of filing his or her naturalization application applicants who are 75 years and above are not required to provide fingerprints.

With Certain Medical Conditions: If the applicant is unable to provide fingerprints because of a medical condition an applicant may qualify for a waiver of the fingerprint requirement. Birth defects, physical deformities, skin conditions, and psychiatric conditions are such conditions. Authorization to grant a fingerprint waiver is with only certain USCIS officers.

Only for the following conditions an officer responsible for overseeing applicant fingerprinting may grant the waiver:

  • the applicant was met by the officer in person;
  • attempt to fingerprint the applicant has been made by the officer or authorized technician and
  • applicant is determined to be unable to be fingerprinted at all or is unable to provide a single legible fingerprint by the officer

Clearance letters covering the relevant period of good moral character from local police must be brought to his or her naturalization interview by an applicant who is granted a fingerprint waiver. As part of the record all clearance letters are included. The officer must take a under oath statement from the applicant covering the period of good moral character in cases where the applicant is granted a fingerprint waiver or has two unclassifiable fingerprint results.

If the waiver is solely based on the following an officer should not grant a waiver:

  • fewer than 10 fingers are there for the applicant;
  • the applicant’s fingerprints are found to be unclassifiable by the officer ; or
  • Temporarily the applicant’s condition is preventing the fingerprint capturing.

Decision to deny a fingerprint waiver by a officer is final and may not be appealed.

Name checks by FBI

In response to the name check requests the FBI conducts “name checks” on all naturalization applicants and publicizes the information contained in the FBI’s files to USCIS. A search against the FBI’s Universal Index (UNI) is included in the FBI’s National Name Check Program (NNCP). UNI contains personnel, administrative, applicant, and criminal files compiled for law enforcement purposes. In response to the name check requests the FBI publishes the information contained in the FBI’s files to USCIS.

Before an applicant for naturalization is scheduled for his or her naturalization interview the FBI name check must be completed and cleared. For the duration of the application for which they were conducted a definitive FBI name check response of “NR” (No Record) or “PR” (Positive Response) is valid. From the FBI process date authoritative responses used to support other applications are valid for 15 months. In cases where the final settlement and naturalization have not occurred within that time frame or if the name check was processed incorrectly a new name check is required.

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