Applying for a Fee Waiver

Overview

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives a substantial portion of its funding through application fees but these fees can be a substantial barrier to certain foreign nationals and permanent residents, or green card holders. The USCIS recognizes the potential hardship and offers a fee waiver for certain application fees if an individual is able to demonstrate that he or she is unable to pay the filing fee.

All applications and forms are free and made available on the USCIS’s website. Included in the forms section of the USCIS’s website is the current filing fees. Application filing fees are updated periodically and any changes will be made available on the agency’s website. The fees were last updated on December 23, 2016.

A fee waiver – Form I-912 – is currently available for 31 applications, including Form N-600, Application for Certification of Citizenship; Form N-400, Application for Naturalization; and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Form I-912 and which forms qualify for a fee waiver are made available in the instructions PDF on the USCIS’s website.

Fee Waiver Requirements

 A fee waiver is available for an eligible form if the applicant can demonstrate any or all of the following: (1) the applicant, his/her spouse, or the head of the house household is currently receiving a means-tested benefit; (2) the applicant’s household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing; and (3) the applicant is currently experiencing financial hardship that prevents him or her from paying the filing fee.

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Financial Sponsorship Requirements in Family Based Immigration

Family sponsorship is one of the most common ways a foreign national can become a permanent resident, or receive a Green Card.  The United States allows U.S. citizens or permanent residents to sponsor family members that include children, parents, spouses and siblings – and bring them into the country.

For more information on the specific visas, please see my article on Path to U.S. Citizenship.

Obtaining a visa through family sponsorship will require the sponsoring family member to complete an affidavit of support, which is a declaration of intent to financially support the immigrant family member. An affidavit of support is required because the Immigration and Nationality Act grants the Attorney General the power to deny entrance into the United States if the individual “is likely at any time to become a public charge.”  In another context, a sponsoring employer may also be required to submit an affidavit of support for a foreign national if the sponsored foreign national, or the prospective employee, is related to the employer or holds a 5% or more in ownership interest in the entity that filed the visa petition.

Therefore, whether applying to come to the United States or if already here, converting a temporary visa into permanent resident status, a foreign national must demonstrate they will not become a public charge through the filing of an affidavit of support.

 What is a Public Charge?

A public charge is an individual who is unable to support himself or herself without financial support from the government in the form of public cash or an individual who is expected to need long-term care facilities.

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