Along with the USCIS filing fee increase which went into effect on November 23, 2010, USCIS has revamped the guidelines, criteria and application process for filing fee waivers. While granting a waiver is still in USCIS’s sole discretion, the process and qualifications are now more transparent.
Which Forms are Eligible for a Fee Waiver?
A fee waiver may be requested based on an inability to pay for the following:
- General Fee Waivers: Forms I-90, I-191, I-751, I-765, I-817, I-821, I-881, N-300, N-336, N-400, N-470, N-565, N-600, N-600K; and
- Humanitarian Fee Waivers: any fees associated with the filing of any benefit request by a VAWA self-petitioner or an alien who has or is requesting a T visa or U visa; is a battered spouse of A, G, E–3, or H nonimmigrant, or a battered spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen; or has Temporary Protected Status. This would include filings not otherwise eligible for a fee waiver or eligible only for a conditional fee waiver such as Forms I-212, I-485, I-539, and I-601.
- Conditional Fee Waivers: If not listed above, you may request a fee waiver subject to the following conditions: (a) I-131 – only if applying for humanitarian parole (i.e., only for persons located overseas who are applying for an Advance Parole Document, Application Type “e” or “f” in Part 2); (b) I-290B – only if the underlying application was fee exempt, the fee was waived, or it was eligible for a fee waiver; and (c) in addition, an applicant who does not have to show he or she will not become a public charge for admission or adjustment of status purposes according to section 212(a)(4) of the INA may request a waiver of the following fees: I-192, I-193, I-485 (This would include but not be limited to an I-485 from a “Registry” applicant, an asylee, Special Immigrant Juvenile, an application under the Cuban Adjustment Act, the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act, or similar provision, or; a Lautenberg Parolee), and I-601.
- Biometrics: biometric services in connection with any application or petition, regardless of whether it is listed above.
What is the Fee Waiver Application Process?
USCIS has developed Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, in an effort to facilitate the fee waiver request process. While USCIS will continue to consider applicant-generated fee waiver requests (i.e., those not submitted on Form I-912) that comply with 8 CFR 103.7(c), it is USCIS’s preference that Form I-912 be used to submit fee waiver requests. Also, Form I-912 and its instructions provide helpful guidance in structuring and documenting a fee waiver request.
Who Can Get a Fee Waiver?
The review of a fee waiver request will focus on the following three steps:
Step 1. Are you receiving a means-tested benefit? This step instructs an applicant about various acceptable means-tested benefits and the kinds of acceptable evidence used to document the receipt of a means-tested benefits. This step also outlines which family members will be considered as eligible for a fee waiver based upon the primary applicant’s receipt of a means-tested benefit. If you are receiving a means-tested benefit and you have provided sufficient evidence with your fee waiver request, your fee waiver will normally be approved and no further information is required.
Step 2. Is your household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing? This step instructs an applicant about what is acceptable evidence in determining household income. It also specifies what family members should be included when determining household size. If you have provided sufficient evidence that your household income is at or below the 150 % threshold, your fee waiver will normally be approved.
Step 3. Do you have some financial hardship situation that you would want USCIS to consider when determining eligibility for a fee waiver? This step allows an applicant to list any special circumstances that USCIS should consider in addition to income such as extraordinary expenses and liabilities.