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EIG Summary | DHS Proposes Increases to the Biometrics Data Collection

September 11, 2020

On Friday, September 4, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced a proposal that would allow the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to increase the biometric data the agency collects from immigrants.

The proposal includes adding iris scans and facial recognition to the biometric data collection. Additionally, this proposed rule introduces a “continuous immigration vetting” program, under which an immigrant could be required to turn in biometrics even after gaining permanent residency until they become citizens. The proposal also expands who would be required to submit biometric data to include minors under 14 years old and American citizens who sponsor spouses or relatives to establish biological relationships.

DHS cites that this proposed rule would improve the consistency of biometrics technology, lessen the dependence on paper documents to prove identity and that the total benefits of such changes “are not possible to quantify.”

USCIS estimates that the additional requirements would apply to more than 2.1 million people and that including DNA testing to verify relationships could cost immigrants and their families up to $224 million annually.

The proposal is now open to public feedback for a month.

This proposal follows the announcement in August from USCIS’ Deputy Policy Director Joseph Edlow that the agency would be able to avoid a furlough of more than 13,000 employees despite the budgetary issues caused by a decline in visa applications during the pandemic. Still, in this announcement, Edlow said, avoiding the furlough would have “severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board.”

Opponents to this proposal have quickly pointed out that these new and increased measures would only add to the long processing times and the existing backlog. Other concerns include issues of privacy and safe data storage for biometrics data that could be maintained for decades.

The proposed rule is the most recent expansion of DNA collection as part of the US immigration process, but this rule would affect American citizens, which could cause a legal challenge.

Erickson Immigration Group will continue to send updates as more news is available. If you have questions about anything we’re reporting above or case-specific questions, please contact your employer or EIG attorney.