Applying or petitioning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for immigrant benefits can be expensive. Many of the petitions or applications require fees of hundreds of dollars that you might struggle to afford. To accommodate these financial challenges, you could be eligible for a fee waiver from the USCIS by completing Form I-912. Generally speaking, many required USCIS fees can be waived if you can prove that you’re suffering from a financial hardship or otherwise meet specific income standards. To provide this proof, you’ll need to attach complete and accurate supporting documents to Form I-912.
What Is Form I-912?
Filing immigration forms often comes with certain filing fees. If you can’t afford to pay these costs, you can file Form I-912: Request for Fee Waiver. If you are successful, you will get a fee waiver. This means you won’t have to pay for certain forms or services. Before you request a fee waiver, you’ll have to ensure Form I-912 can be used for the USCIS application you are filing. You will also need to gather the right supporting documents to prove your financial need.
Should the Supporting Documents Be Originals?
According to the form instructions, include photocopies of all your documents, unless otherwise stated by USCIS. USCIS will accept original documents, but you probably won’t receive them back. As a result, you should make copies or simply provide USCIS with copies from the start.
Your documents must be in English, or you need to include a certified English translation along with it.
Should I Send in Payment, Just In Case?
No, do not send in the payment just in case. USCIS may see your payment and take it without considering your Form I-912. Also, be sure to make it clear on your underlying petition that Form I-912 is attached. You don’t want USCIS to miss your waiver application and reject your overall immigration application because you did not attach payment for the fee. You could make this clear by including a cover letter that explains that you are requesting a fee waiver.
When Can I Use Form I-912?
USCIS Form I-912 covers the fees for many applications and petitions, including the following:
- Biometrics services fees (applies to many types of applications)
- Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization, including for asylum work permits
- Form N-400: Application for Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen
- Form N-600: Application for Certification of Citizenship
- Form I-131: Application for Travel Document, but only if you are applying for humanitarian parole
- Form I-821: Application for Temporary Protected Status
- Form I-90: Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card
- Form I-192: Application for Advance Permission to Enter as Nonimmigrant, but only if you are an applicant with nonimmigrant status and exempt from the public charge grounds of inadmissibility
When you file Form I-912, send it with your main application for the immigration benefit you’re applying for. You cannot send Form I-912 separately or after you submit your petition. On Form I-912 you’ll list the form number of the underlying application you are applying for.
Who Can File Form I-912?
You can submit Form I-912 along with many, but not all, immigration applications. Often petitioners cannot file fee waiver requests, but beneficiaries usually can.
For example, green card petitioners — such as a family member filing Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative or an employer filing Form I-140: Immigration Petition for Alien Worker — do not qualify for fee waivers. But as a green card beneficiary — the one receive the green card — you can file a fee waiver form with your Form I-485 adjustment of status application.
As a green card applicant, you may also need to prove that you will not become dependent on public benefits. This is called being a “public charge.” However, if you are applying based on asylum status, special immigrant juvenile status, or as a Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner, you are exempt from this requirement.
Is There a Reason Not To Complete Form I-912?
There are two situations where you may not want to request a fee waiver. First, if the fee waiver form will introduce information that could jeopardize your underlying immigration application, you may not want to file it.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will use any information you provide in this form to decide your main immigration application. If this information hurts your overall case, you would risk not receiving the entire immigration benefit. For example, if you are applying for a family-based green card and need to prove you will not become a public charge, you may want to avoid indicating financial hardship.
Secondly, a fee waiver could delay your application. It may take USCIS more time because they will first process your fee waiver, then your application. If you urgently need an immigration benefit, applying for a fee waiver may not be the best option.
How Do You File Form I-912?
The fee waiver form is fairly simple to fill out. You’ll explain why you shouldn’t have to pay the filing fee and provide evidence for your case. You will need to provide personal information such as your date of birth, marital status, and contact information. If applicable, you may also provide your alien registration number (A-number), Social Security number, and USCIS online account number.
The difficult part can be finding and providing the necessary additional information. It is extremely important to provide complete evidence. If you do not provide enough evidence or you fill out Form I-912 incorrectly, USCIS may reject your immigration application. If your application is rejected, you can fix the error and refile it, but this can cause significant delays.
As a result, it is very important to follow the Form I-912 instructions closely. There are three main ways to complete the application, which are explained below.
Basis 1: Means-Tested Benefit
The first way you can prove you qualify for Form I-912 is by showing that you receive a means-tested benefit. A means-tested benefit is a public benefit from a federal, state, or local agency that uses your income to determine if you qualify.
These programs include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
Programs such as student financial aid, Social Security benefits, and Medicaid/Medicare do not count.
You need to provide proof that you receive a means-tested benefit. For example, you could show an official letter or agency notice showing your name and address and indicating your receipt of the benefit. If possible, include a letter or notice that is dated within the last 30 days. The letter should be addressed to the person whose the name is on the USCIS application.
Although there is usually a head of household for each benefit, the agency should be able to list all the names on the document for reference or provide each individual with their own letter. If you do not have a recent letter, you can contact the agency to ask for a representative to mail or email a notice outlining your benefits.
Basis 2: Income at or Below 150% Poverty Guidelines
The second way to qualify for a fee waiver is by proving that your household income falls at or below 150% of the federal poverty guidelines for your household size. Your household size equals the number of members who live in your home. This includes adults and any dependents listed on your tax returns.
Then, provide documentation that your income falls beneath the required level. You should submit Federal IRS Form 1040 or your federal tax return. Only submit the important pages, which generally include the first few main filing pages, relevant schedules, and any signature pages.
If your income has changed since filing your last tax return provide evidence of your changed circumstances. For example, if you lost your job, you can show proof you’re receiving unemployment benefits. If you got a lower-paying job, you can show pay stubs showing your recent wages. You should also explain the change of circumstances on the form in the space provided.
If you are legally separated or not living with your spouse, you don’t have to include their income. However, you need to include any financial support you receive from your spouse and proof of your separation or different addresses.
Basis 3: Financial Hardship
The final way you can qualify for Form I-912 is by proving your financial hardship. This is more difficult to prove than the first two options. So, if you qualify on one of the first two options, you should use those to receive a fee waiver. You don’t have to pick just one basis for completing Form I-912. But generally, it’s a good idea to pick one basis and thoroughly prove you qualify.
Financial hardship could include family members' medical expenses, unemployment, or homelessness. However, because this is the most difficult to prove, it will require the most documentation. USCIS generally requires you to show all your assets, monthly expenses, and liabilities. Therefore, supporting documentation becomes even more important for proving your case.
What Documents Can I Submit In Support of Financial Hardship?
No matter what your claim of financial hardship is based on, you need to provide detailed supporting documentation to prove it. Generally, you need to list your assets, monthly expenses, and liabilities and make them clearly verifiable through bills and financial statements.
For example, if you are claiming your monthly expenses surpass your income, you will need to prove it. You could provide pay stubs, proof of unemployment, utility bills, or medical bills. If you underwent a natural disaster and lost your official documents, prove it through insurance documents, an investigation report, and any old copies of the documents you have.
What Is an Affidavit of Support?
If you don’t have official documents — such as pay stubs or letters from a government agency — to prove evidence of your lack of income, you can submit an affidavit(s) of support. An affidavit of support is a sworn statement from a nonprofit, religious institution, or other community organization that supports your claim of lack of income. For example, if you receive food from a local food bank regularly, a representative from the food bank may be willing to prepare an affidavit of support on your behalf.
Affidavits are considered legitimate evidence because false statements on an affidavit are considered perjury, which is a crime.
Tips for Writing an Affidavit of Support
If someone from your church, a community organization you are a part of , or a nonprofit that helps you in some way agrees to write you an affidavit of support, ask them to be sure to do the following:
- Explain their position, such as being an employee at a particular organization, and how their job allows them to attest to the information in the affidavit.
- Explain how they know you and what their relationship is to you.
- Attest to the fact that you, as the petitioner, are receiving benefits from their organization. This is the primary reason for the affidavit.
- Provide details that support your claim of financial hardship.
- Complete the affidavit on the associated organization’s official letterhead and sign it.
- Date the affidavit.
- Include the organization’s address.
The affidavit doesn’t have to be notarized or specially stamped by an institution such as a bank or post office. However, the writer should include the following language to make it official: “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge.”
Applying for a fee waiver can be complicated, but help is available. If you are using a fee waiver for your green card application, our free web app will walk you through the green card process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!