United States Citizenship and Immigration allows some applicants to request fee waivers or fee reductions when filing certain forms or applying for certain immigration benefits. Because USCIS is funded by application and petition fees, if applicants can’t afford to pay the filing fees and can clearly show it, officials will consider approving a fee reduction or waiving a fee entirely.
But how do you know if you qualify, and is it worth it? After all, most people would prefer not to pay full price for something if they can avoid it. Are there any risks involved? Fortunately, USCIS has set guidelines for qualifying for fee reductions and fee waivers and openly explains potential issues.
Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee
Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee can sometimes be used to request a reduced filing fee. This form can be used if you can show that your annual household income is at or below 200 percent but above 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
You will still have to pay your attorney fees and the full fee for biometric services, but the filing fee that you will owe USCIS when you file could be substantially less. If you might qualify for this fee reduction, your lawyer can submit your Form I-942 at the same time as your Form N-400.
One important thing that your lawyer will explain to you is that if you need a fee reduction, you can’t submit any application or petition online. Considering the benefits of online submissions, you may find that you’d rather not request a reduced fee. Filing paper versions, the way we used to do it, can sometimes cause people to worry for days on end about whether USCIS received their paperwork. So, this is something you will need to think about and something you can discuss with your immigration attorney.
Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver
Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver is allowed to be used for certain immigration forms and services. Instead of having to pay a reduced rate, this form requests a complete waiver of the filing fee. Not all forms are eligible, but your lawyer can tell you if a particular form is one of the eligible forms.
In order to qualify for a fee waiver, you must be able to prove one of the following:
- Your spouse, the head of household living with you, or you are getting a means-tested benefit already
- Your household income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
- You can’t pay the filing fee because you are currently experiencing financial hardship because of unexpected medical bills or other emergencies.
When USCIS is deciding on whether to grant you a fee waiver, they will consider homelessness, so people who are getting services from a shelter should include a dated letter from the shelter to improve their chances of approval. If you are homeless but not getting homeless shelter services, you should get an affidavit from someone in good standing within your community to support your claim of homelessness.
One issue that you should discuss with your attorney is whether requesting a fee waiver could risk any future immigration benefits. Depending on your circumstances, it might not be worth saving the money.
FAQs About USCIS Fee Reductions And Fee Waivers
Will requesting a fee waiver affect my current immigration status?
Unfortunately, if your income is so low that you rely mostly on public cash assistance for household income, it is possible that it could affect your chances of getting an immigrant visa, so it’s very important to discuss all the possible outcomes with your attorney.
If officials believe that you will become dependent on the U.S. government, they could consider you inadmissible for that reason. Keep in mind though, USCIS will look at all the circumstances. Still, for some people, it’s just not worth risking an immigration benefit to save money on fees.
Who should you count as a member of your household for household size?
You should count yourself, your head of household (if that’s not you), your spouse (if they are living with you), unmarried children or legal wards who are under 21 (if they are living with you), unmarried children or legal wards between the ages of 21 and 24 years old who are full-time students who live with you when they aren’t in school, unmarried children or legal wards who live with you because they have a disability or impairment that makes them unable to care for themselves, your parents (if they live with you), and other dependents listed on tax returns.
Keep in mind though, if people who live with you have an income as well, you will need to factor their income into your annual household income.
I am supposed to get child support, but I don’t get the actual amount I am supposed to be getting. How should I record that in my income section?
If I am separated from my spouse, will that affect my eligibility for a fee reduction or fee waiver?
If you don’t include your spouse’s income because you are separated, you need to provide documentation that proves your separation and that they don’t provide you with income assistance. Documentation can include court separation documents, financial agreement paperwork, proof of separate rent or mortgages, proof of separate utility bills, and things like that. Your immigration lawyer can help you figure out what you will need to document the separation if you need help.
Does an Affidavit of Support affect my eligibility for a waiver or reduction?
When someone files a Form I-134 or Form I-864, they say that they are responsible for financially supporting you, so it may affect your eligibility. However, if that person is a member of your household their income is included and you are still eligible, USCIS may grant you the waiver.
Assistance With USCIS Fee Waivers and Reductions
If you choose to work with Davis & Associates lawyers at either our Houston or Dallas law offices and you would like us to look at whether you might qualify for fee waivers or a fee reduction from USCIS, please let us know. We can walk you through the entire process to help your odds of approval.
About Davis & Associates:
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in Houston & North Texas including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and surrounding areas. Their attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. Attorney Garry L. Davis is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Dallas Contact Info:
Address: 17750 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75252
Houston Contact Info: Address: 6220 Westpark Dr, Suite 110, Houston, TX 77057
Phone: (832) 742-0066