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Fee Waiver Form Now Available
January 6, 2011 by Immigration Law Attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq.
This article is helpful to individuals filing applications on their own because they cannot afford an attorney and also because they cannot afford the USCIS filing fees. If you are filing the application on your own without an attorney, be sure to read the “Caution” portion of this article.
USCIS has recently issued a Form that applicants can now use when they want to file an application with immigration but they cannot afford to pay the USCIS filing fees. The Fee Waiver Application form is Form I-912, and it can be obtained from www.uscis.gov. The form has been available since November 2010.
Applicants must file Form I-912 at the same time they file the immigration application that is relevant for their case. In other words, the Form I-912 cannot be filed by itself. Not all application filing fees can be waived, and this article in the following sections provides a list of the applications that qualify for a fee waiver.
This is a good step on USCIS’ part to help people that sincerely cannot afford to pay the USCIS filing fees. When you consider that the filing fee for an employment card is $380.00 USD, you can see that sometimes the USCIS’ filing fees legitimately are more than some people can afford to pay, especially unemployed individuals.
Previous to the new Form I-912, USCIS did not have any formal way to request a fee waiver. So this form is welcome and is helpful for applicants filing cases without an attorney.
The form itself is four pages long, but it is simple to complete. There are three grounds on which applicants can base their request on to receive a fee waiver. The three grounds for a fee waiver request are as follows:
You must choose only ONE of the three options above and each option takes you to a different section of the form. You may mark “N/A” or “not applicable” for the other sections of the Form I-912 that are not relevant to your situation.
For the means-tested benefit, you will need to list the name of the individual receiving the benefit, i.e. whether you, your spouse or one of your children, the name of the agency that is giving the benefit, the date the benefit began, and whether you are now still receiving the benefit at the time of filing the form. If your child is receiving the benefit, please note that you are not guaranteed that you will be approved for the fee waiver. You still need to qualify on your own for the fee waiver, and certainly the Officer will take into account that your child is receiving the means-tested benefit.
If you are wondering what counts as a “means-tested benefit”, some examples of means-tested benefits are as follows:
The most important point to remember is that these benefits must be received after a federal or state agency has looked at your financial circumstances and determined that you are eligible for the benefits. Since the federal or state agency has already determined that you need benefits based on your current income and situation then USCIS can rely on that agency’s determination as proof that you are eligible for a fee waiver and not required to pay the filing fee for certain applications. You MUST provide evidence that you are receiving the benefits when you file the fee waiver request.
If you are receiving the benefit, then your spouse can qualify based on proof that you are receiving the means-tested benefit. You should attach a marriage certificate in this situation, as well as proof that your spouse or you are receiving the benefits.
For the second option, the form asks how many people live in the household with you, the average monthly income from all household members, other money received like from child support or unemployment, and then you must add all the incomes together and provide the total income in the line indicated. USCIS will then determine if you meet the standards to be at or below 150% of the Federal poverty guidelines.
Until June 2011, the following are the poverty limits / guidelines:
So what this means is that if you have 4 people in your household (you, your spouse and two children), if you are at or BELOW 150% of the poverty guideline listed above, then you can qualify for the fee waiver given the income above. Keep in mind that if your parents live with you, you may include them for purposes of calculating the # of people in your household. If the parent is living with you BUT is not claimed by you on your income taxes, that person’s income will NOT be considered when determining your household income.
If you are legally separated, your spouse does not need to be included in the family size, but any income he or she provides to the family must be added to the household income.
If you are not sure whether you can include a child or another person as being part of the household number, please refer to the Form I-912 instructions for detailed analysis of who can be included.
If you are over the 150% listed above for the number of people in your household and the income listed above, then you can qualify through a financial hardship, which is option # 3 on the form. If you are reading this article after June 2011, then please go to http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty for more current updates on the Federal poverty guidelines.
For the financial hardship option, the form has a box area which asks you to explain the hardship that is causing you to not be able to pay the USCIS filing fee(s). You may attach an additional sheet if the space is not enough.
If you are receiving help from your church, then check box # 3 for financial hardship and attach a letter from the church leadership stating that they are providing you financial help and explain in what way they are helping you financially.
There is an option listed under financial hardship where you can explain if you are unemployed and when you became unemployed. In this section, you will need to explain any unemployment benefits you receive and any and all assets you may own (like car(s), home, cash in the bank, etc.).
On page 4 of the form, all of your monthly expenses can be explained, such as rent or mortgage, food, utilities, child care, insurance, loan payments, commuting costs, medical and school costs.
If you are currently unemployed, then you would fall under category #3, financial hardship.
This form can be used when filing with USCIS or with the immigration court.
For Students, if you are under 24 years old and over 21 years of age and not married and can be claimed on your parent’s tax return, you can file the fee waiver form if you are a student. You should include a copy of your parent’s federal income tax return and if not claimed on your parent’s tax return, then also include your federal income tax return, as proof you qualify for the fee waiver. If your parent’s did not claim you on your taxes, then USCIS will consider only your income when determining whether you qualify for the fee waiver.
The Form I-912 can be used to waive the following application fees:
As stated above in # 19, biometric fees, which are currently $85.00 USD, can be waived for any application, regardless of whether it is listed above or not. Please see Form I-912 form instructions if your application is not listed above to see whether it qualifies for a fee waiver or not.
The Form I-912 instructions do not list employment based visa fees, and so it is wise to call USCIS at 800-375-5283 to see whether the employment based visa fees can be waived.
EACH PERSON that wishes to obtain a fee waiver MUST sign Form I-912. Each person should also be indicated on page 1 of the form. Only One form I-912 can be filed for the entire family, if each person over the age of 14 signs separately. Only one I-912 application can be filed for multiple applications, if these applications are being filed at the same time and in the same envelope. All subsequent, i.e. future, immigration applications (like renewals for an employment card) will need a separate form I-912. An attorney CANNOT sign the form I-912 on behalf of a client.
PROCESSING TIME & PROCEDURES: Thumbs up to USCIS because they have a goal of adjudicating fee waiver requests within 5 business days. We like that. However, in order to help USCIS, applicants are urged to provide clear evidence along with the Form I-912. If the fee waiver request is approved, USCIS will send the receipt notice(s) to the applicant(s), indicating that the case has been received and that $0.00 has been paid.
CAUTION: It is not always advisable to seek a fee waiver, as it may subject some individuals to a public charge ground and cause them to be "inadmissible" according to immigration officials, thus barring them from immigration benefits. There may be legal aid organizations that can assist you to determine whether filing the fee waiver application will be harmful to your case.
Also, if your case has a filing deadline, like when you file an appeal of a denied case and you have a 30 day deadline, if the fee waiver request is denied, the filing deadline will not be extended. You will need to re-file the application again with the required fee attached to the application, hopefully within the required time frame.
This article called "Fee Waiver Form Now Available" is owned 100% by Lena Korial-Yonan, Immigration lawyer in Jacksonville, Florida.
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Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A. 9425 Craven Road, Suite 5 Jacksonville, FL 32257 Phone: (904) 448-6646 Facsimile: (904) 448-8221 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org