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Access to Immigrants’ Information


Immigration applications are the most common trigger of adverse immigration consequences. When an immigrant applies for an immigration benefit or status, such as green card or naturalization, s/he must demonstrate that s/he is admissible to the U.S. and has good moral character. Immigration adjudicators often compel applicants to divulge information about their family court cases when, for example, proof of materially supporting a child is relevant to the relief being sought; when a child does not reside with the applicant; when an applicant has had an order of protection issued against him or her; or where an applicant has been arrested for a crime involving endangering the welfare of a minor (even if the charge was dismissed).


There are three types of fingerprinting that can prompt an immigration authority or adjudicator to demand access to family court information and adjudications: a) fingerprints taken at the time of booking into a local jail; b) fingerprints taken to conduct both criminal and civil background checks; and c) fingerprints taken to adjudicate immigration applications.

a.         Fingerprinting at Booking in Criminal Matters – Any time an immigrant litigant is arrested on a family court warrant or confined in connection with a contempt order, the immigrant becomes vulnerable to detection and apprehension by ICE. Fingerprints taken by local jails at booking are automatically shared with ICE via federal data-sharing networks.

b.         Fingerprinting for Background Checks in Family Court When individuals are fingerprinted for family court related background checks, the print checks are done by New York State’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).

c.Fingerprinting for Immigration Applications – For many types of immigration benefits, including those that relate to protecting unaccompanied minors and victims of domestic violence and other crimes, USCIS requires that the immigrant applicant undergo a “biometric screening” that includes both fingerprints and digitized photographs. USCIS uses the fingerprints to check an individual’s immigration and criminal history. Fingerprints are run through immigration databases that include information about immigrants who have violated immigration laws. Fingerprints are also run through the FBI’s criminal database, which includes information about past arrests, criminal convictions, and any active orders of protection. The FBI database includes information about active orders of protection issued by both family and criminal courts, which it obtains through a data sharing agreement with the New York State Police. Any time an immigrant applies for an immigration benefit, USCIS can access information about an immigrant’s travel, family, criminal history, etc. Immigrant applicants are often questioned about travel, family, and criminal matters that surface through biometric screening, and can be denied benefits after disclosure of information about arrests that do not result in prosecution.

Individuals should always consult with a competent immigration attorney to determine the potential for adverse immigration consequences and to identify any available options that may pertain to his or her specific case.

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