Navigating the visa biometrics process with the right documents and guidelines
One of the most unnerving aspects of undergoing an immigration request process is the in-person appointment. There are different types of in-person meetings that may be requested by the United States Customs and Immigration Service. During the course of an immigration request many applicants will sooner or later become acquainted with an Offsite Facilitation Center. If you’re wondering what exactly an OFC is and what it does, continue reading.
What is an OFC?
Put simply, Office Facilitation Centers, or OFCs, have been created to allow for easier access to immigration services.Think of these centers similar to a motor vehicles center that has multiple offices throughout your town. OFC’s function in the same way. They are typically situated in close proximity to US Embassies making it easier for applicants to engage with USCIS.
Please note that an OFC appointment is different from a regular visa appointment. The differences are explained below.
What is an OFC Appointment?
These appointments are set up to collect all of the important documentation needed to move forward in processing a visa request. As you could imagine, collecting this information can be incredibly time consuming. So, Offsite Facilitation Centers help to cut down the amount of time an actual visa appointment may take by eliminating document collection during a visa appointment.
These appointments have been created to streamline the visa interview process and are scheduled prior to a visa appointment.
Sometimes life happens and applicants may find themselves needing to change their appointment. Fortunately, rescheduling your appointment is pretty straightforward. Log into the online portal and select the “Cancel or Reschedule Appointment” button in order to change the date of your appointment.
An appointment will be generated after your initial application request has been approved.
If you’re nervous about communicating with the onsite staff, don’t be, there will be staff on site who speak your language.
An Offsite Facilitation Center is the same as a Visa Application Center. Yes, this can be a little confusing.
Visa Interview Appointment
These interviews are conducted to discern several things about the applicant. First, what is the applicant’s true intention in making their visa request. Does the applicant meet the stated parameters for the specific visa being requested? Will the applicant respect the stated rules and regulations for the visa that they’ve requested?
What To Bring To an OFC Appointment?
Prior to an appointment, applicants will be given the details on what they need to bring to their appointment. Typically, applicants need to bring the following with them and also be prepared for some additional requests.
You must bring a hard copy of the interview confirmation form that was sent to you.
A valid passport. Please be aware that your passport has to be valid at least 6 months after your stated stay will be completed.
A printed copy of your visa application. Do not make the mistake relying on a digital copy. You won’t be able to access it during your appointment.
Biometric data taken via fingerprinting. This data is used to do background checks on each applicant.
Be prepared to have your picture taken. There’s nothing worse than having a bad hair day and taking an official picture that will be referenced for years. Look your best when you arrive for your appointment.
Currently, there are no additional fees associated with this appointment.
Double-check the approved items allowed to bring with you to your appointment. You may find that you’re unable to bring bags, electronic gadgets including cell phones, and other items that may surprise you.
The USCIS can change what they would like applicants to bring, so do take care to carefully review what they’ve requested for you to bring to your appointment.
The Day of Your OFC Appointment
Now that you’ve collected all of the items that USCIS has requested from you it’s time to go to your appointment. Ironically, the actual OFC appointment is pretty straightforward.
Take a deep breath and relax.
Just like with any appointment make sure that you arrive a little bit early. But, not too early.
Bring all of the requested items in the actual form that USCIS has requested. Keep them organized in a simple folder or file.
Make your way through the security check. Do not bring or wear any electronics with you on that day. Also, please be aware that the OFC will not secure any items that you bring with you. So, don’t bring anything that you don’t need with you.
You will be assigned and given a number as you make your way through the steps prior to your actual time. Pay attention to when that number is called.
Once your number is called the USCIS official will take your fingerprints (biometric data)
Then you will have your photo taken.
Ideally, your appointment should be pretty quick. It is a good idea to do your own due diligence and research regarding what to expect during your appointment. Just like any large entity, USCIS may change how this process works. Changes are normally communicated ahead of time so don’t be too worried about the potential for changes to the OFC appointment process.
Interview Program Waiver
It’s important to note that not everyone will be required to attend an OFC appointment. In order to be eligible for a waiver applicants must meet the following criteria.
Applicants should have no previous visa refusal which would immediately make the applicant ineligible for the program.
The individual cannot apply for a visa different from the one that they currently have been granted.
Students on F-1 and M-1 visas cannot change their course of study. For example: if the individual began as a medical student, they must continue studying medicine.
This request must be made while the individual is in their home country.
Making an immigration request from USCIS can feel a bit intimidating. Keep the following in mind as you make your way through the process. The OFC process has been created to simplify your visa appointment experience.
With 10+ years of experience working in the immigration and personal finance space, Michelle has written for leading publications like Business Insider and Vice.
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