Like many things in life, many immigration benefits and services provided by the federal government require a fee. However, few people are aware that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may, under certain circumstances, waive the filing fee. Applicants unable to afford the filing fee due to their financial circumstances or hardship may request consideration on Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver.
You may qualify for a fee waiver under three set of circumstances:
1) Whether you are receiving a means-tested benefit;
2) Whether your household income is at or below 150% of the federal poverty guideline level;
3) Whether there is some sort of financial hardship that you are undergoing that would warrant USCIS waiving the fee.
Which Forms/Applications May the Fee Be Waived?
There are numerous applications that USCIS may waive the filing fee for. They include:
- Form I-90, which is filed to replace/renew the green card
- Form I-131, which is filed for humanitarian parole
- Form I-192, Advance Permission to Enter as a Non-immigrant
- Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion
- Form I-485, Application to Adjust Status
- Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status
- Form I-751, which is filed to remove the conditions on permanent residence
- Form I-765, which is the work permit application
- Form I-817, Application for Family Unity Benefits
- Form N-300, Application to File Declaration of Intention
- Form N-336, which is filed to appeal an N-400 denial
- Form N-400, which is the application for Naturalization
- Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purpose
- Form N-565, which is filed to replace a citizenship certificate
- Form N-600, Application for Certificate of Citizenship
- Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322
Of course, it is important to read the instructions carefully, as the fees are not waived for every type of case that may be filed on the above forms. For example, when someone applies for a green card, he/she will fill out the I-485. However, the fee is only waived, provided that the I-912 is approved, for those applying for a green card based on having T status; asylum status; approved status as a battered spouse, child, or parent of a USC or LPR; Special Immigrant Juvenile status; Special Immigrant Status; and an adjustment provision that does not require you to demonstrate that you will not be a public charge. Therefore, a marriage based application for adjustment of status filed on the basis of an approved I-130 will normally not qualify for a fee waiver. Interestingly, the filing fee for the I-601A, Provisional Waiver, cannot be waived.
Some Practical Tips
- Under section 3, titled 'Basis for Your Request', you are allowed to check multiple boxes. Applicants should check off every applicable box and provide as much supporting documentation as possible. For example, if you are claiming that your income is below the federal poverty guideline level, you should enclose copies of your tax returns and proof of income.
- File I-912 should be filed together with the form or application for which you are requesting a benefit without having to pay the filing fee.
- If you are legally separated by court order and do not wish for your spouse to be considered part of your household for purposes of the poverty guideline level, you should include a copy of the court order. However, the instructions indicate that any support that he/she provides should be considered part of your household income. Household size and household income are two separate and distinct concepts.
- If you are requesting a fee waiver based on financial hardship, it is helpful to include a detailed explanation of the circumstances that caused your financial hardship. You can write this statement on page 3, section 6, line 12. If additional space is needed, you are free to attach supplementary proof.
Some Practical Considerations: Some Fee Waivers Can Be Costly
In our experience, these types of applications are thoroughly reviewed. It is not uncommon for the application to be rejected if either filled out incorrectly or filed with insufficient proof, causing unwanted delay. Additionally, even though requesting a fee waiver may be option, it may not necessarily be advisable if information disclosed in the application contradicts or potentially raises questions. For example, in a citizenship context, the N-400 requires you to disclose all trips outside the US. If an applicant has traveled internationally extensively, an officer may question how he/she could afford to finance those trips yet not afford to pay the naturalization filing fee. Even if there is reasonable explanation, ie., trip paid for by relatives, etc., the applicant may experience additional pressure having to explain the circumstances and allay an officer's suspicion of misrepresentation. Another conceivable situation that could create issues would be if the applicant owed the IRS some outstanding money. If the applicant is successful in getting USCIS to waive the filing fee, but does not properly disclose the tax deficiency on the application for naturalization, an officer may question his/her good moral character and why these facts were not divulged during the citizenship application process. For these and many other reasons that may not be apparent from just the forms, it may be worthwhile for any applicant considering a fee exemption to discuss the pros and cons with an experienced immigration attorney who understands the practical ramifications of filing the I-912.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.