USCIS fee waiver

EP20: USCIS Fee Waiver And How To Apply and Get Approved

We all know that US immigration can be very expensive. No one likes paying the huge filing fees but they are necessary to get your application process…or are they? In today’s podcast, I go over the USCIS fee waiver and how to apply for it and get approved.
Before we get to the details on the fee waiver, let’s get familiar with USCIS filing fees and how to pay them. Firstly, USCIS has changed the fee schedule multiple times so you must visit their website to confirm the correct fee for your application.
When it comes to paying USCIS filing fees, there are a few requirements you should be aware of:
  • All fees are in U.S. dollars. 🇺🇸
    • USCIS does not accept foreign payments. All payments must be drawn from a US bank account.
  • USCIS accepts checks or money orders. 💵
    • When paying the application or petition fees, you should send the check or money order with your application.
  • Failing to pay the full amount of the fee. ✋
    • This can result in the rejection of your application or cause serious processing delays.
Did You Know?
USCIS is almost entirely funded by application and petition fees. This means that the fees you pay go directly to pay for the adjudicator salaries! USCIS Filing fees were last adjusted in November 2010 and May 2016.
During the 2019 government shutdown, USCIS still continued to process family-based immigration applications. This was because they were being funded directly by the applicants and not the US governement! 👍

Why Does USCIS Increase The Filing Fees?

The reason USCIS increases their fees periodically is because of the rise in their costs to adjudicate and process applications. Not only does this include rising wages but other expenses of doing business.

USCIS conducted a comprehensive fee review for year 2016/2017 period and determined that current fees do not recover the full cost of services provided.
DHS then determined that adjusting the fee schedule is necessary to fully recover costs and maintain adequate service.
Before the fee increases go into effect, DHS allows for public comments on the proposed changes. Unless there is a good reason why they shouldn’t increase fees, it’s likely to be approved quickly.
DHS has published a proposed fee schedule on May 4, 2016 and it has been approved.
This means that USCIS hasn’t increased fees for almost 3 years! I’m predicting another fee increase soon as the costs have probably increased during this time simply due to inflation.
For more information about USCIS fees, visit this link: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/our-fees
Below is a chart the shows all the forms that had a filing fee increase in 2016. You can easily compare what the cost was before the increase and what the cost is now. Yes, some forms have gone up quite a bit! 😧

Eligibility for the Waiver

Alright, now that we are aware of the process of paying your filing fee with your application and the current cost of the fees. Let’s take a look at the I-912 waiver and who is eligible for it.

You can request a fee waiver if:
  • The form you are filing is eligible for a fee waiver; and
    • Before you get excited about not having to pay the fee, you need to be sure that the form you are about to submit qualifies for the fee waiver. You see, not all forms will allow you to avoid paying the filing fee.
  • You must provide documentation showing that you qualify based upon one of the following criteria:
    • You, your spouse, or the head of household living with you, are currently receiving a means-tested benefit. Check out the table below to find out what programs are considered “means-tested benefits.” and whether you are eligible based on this criteria.
    • You are currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills or emergencies.
      • This criteria can be difficult to prove but if you have documentation showing extreme financial hardship. So be sure to include it! This can be medical bills, bankruptcy filing, eviction notices…anything you can show that you are in a financial bind.

USCIS May Waive Fees Based On Inability To Pay

The following forms will allow you to avoid paying the filing fee if you qualify for the I-912 fee waiver. Remember, it’s not guaranteed so you must still provide enough evidence to convince the adjudicator that you can’t afford the filing fee.

  • Biometrics services fee;
  • Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card;
  • Form I-191, Application for Advance Permission to Return to Unrelinquished Domicile;
  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence;
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization;
  • Form I-817, Application for Family Unity Benefits;
  • Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status;
  • Form I-881, Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal
  • Form N-300, Application to File Declaration of Intention;
  • Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings
  • Form N-400, Application for Naturalization;
  • Form N-470, Application to Preserve Residence for Naturalization Purposes;
  • Form N-565, Application for Replacement of Naturalization/Citizenship
  • Form N-600, Application for Certification of Citizenship; and
  • Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate under
If the form you are submitting to USCIS isn’t listed here, then it’s likely that a fee waiver isn’t available. But, take a look at the ones listed below as they are allowed to waive the fee but with some restrictions.

Applications Where Fee Waiver Is Available With Conditions

The next few forms do allow you to include a I-912 fee waiver but there are some conditions that must be met before it will be approved.
  • Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, only for those applying for humanitarian parole (i.e., only for persons that are applying for an Advance Parole Document under Application Type “e” or “f” in Part 2 of the Form I-131);
  • Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant for an applicant who is exempt from the public charge grounds of inadmissibility of section 212(a)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), either by statute or by policy;
  • Form I-193, Application for Waiver for Passport and/or Visa for an applicant who is exempt from the public charge grounds of inadmissibility of section 212(a)(4) of the INA, either by statute or by policy;
  • Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion, if the underlying application was fee exempt, the fee was waived, or it was eligible for a fee waiver;
  • Form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, for the following individuals:
    • An Afghan and Iraqi Interpreter who has received a Special Immigrant Visa;
    • A “Registry” applicant filing under section 249 of the INA who has maintained continuous residence in the United States since before January 1, 1972; oro
    • An applicant who is exempt from the public charge grounds of inadmissibility 
    • Applications filed by asylees under section 209(b) of the INA;
    • Applications for Special Immigrant Juveniles;
    • Applications under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA), and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), or similar provisions; and
    • Applications filed by Lautenberg Parolees.
  • Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for an applicant who is exempt from the public charge grounds of inadmissibility of section 212(a)(4) of the INA.

Related Post:Invoice ID Number and Case Number From NVC, How Do I Pay The Fee?

How To File Form I-912 Fee Waiver

Finally, let’s take a look at how we can file for the fee waiver once we know we qualify for it. The process is simple but you still need to make sure you complete the form correctly and submit the right evidence.

  • Must complete Form I-912 to request fee waiver
  • Attach all supporting documentations
  • Do not submit your Form I-912 without a completed application or petition.
  • You cannot submit Form I-912 after USCIS has received your application or petition
  • Mail your completed USCIS application or petition, Form I-912, and all supporting documentation to the USCIS office according to the “Where to File” directions for the specific form.
Important: Do not forget the following helpful tips before submitting the fee waiver!
  • Sign your form.
  • Include supporting documents in English.
  • Supporting documentation in languages other than English will not be accepted.
  • Read the form instructions (PDF, 245 KB) carefully.

 If You Submit Both The Fee and Fee Waiver Request

 Some of you may decide to submit both the fee waiver and a check at the same time thinking that USCIS will first check to see if you are qualified to have the filing fee waived.
Don’t do this! 😖
The reason this is a bad idea is because USCIS will process your application and deposit the check if you include it. Even if you DO qualify for the fee waiver!
They will simply reject your fee waiver application since you’ve included payment of the fee already. No action will be taken on your fee waiver request and your evidence will not be reviewed.
If you are concerned that you may not qualify for the fee waiver but want to apply for it anyway, do not include a check with your application. Sure, your application may be rejected if you are denied the fee waiver but you can always resubmit the application with your payment.

How USCIS Processes The Fee Waiver

After you’ve submitted form I-912 fee waiver, USCIS will review it before they process your application. If you qualify and can prove you can’t afford the filing fee, then they will accept the fee waiver request and continue to process your case without payment.

USCIS adjudicators will ask themselves these three questions:
  1. Is the individual receiving a means-tested benefit?

    • This question determines whether you’ve already been shown to meet the poverty guidelines based on state or federal welfare programs. It’s usually difficult to get these types of benefits unless you can prove you have minimal income and assets.
  2. Is the individual’s household income at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing?

    • Your income at the time of filing will be used to determine whether you qualify for the fee waiver. You’ll need to show that you don’t make enough money for your household size to afford the fee comfortably. In other cases, if you make just above the 150% threshold, you can show that you have extreme financial hardship such as huge medical debt, bankruptcy or other financial losses.
  3. Is the individual under financial hardship, due to extraordinary expenses or other circumstances, that renders the individual unable to pay the fee?

    • Finally, the adjudicator will review your evidence of financial hardship or extraordinary expenses that have caused you to be unable to pay the filing fees. Strong evidence should be provided not just a statement from you or someone who is aware of your financial situation. This can be medical bills, tax returns, bank statements etc.

 

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