Applicants Will No Longer Be Able To Use Means-Test Benefits to Qualify for Fee Waivers

USCIS Claims That Revised Criteria Provides “Clarity” for Demonstrating Eligibility

USCIS has revised Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, and is removing the means-tested benefit criteria that was previously used as a factor in determining whether an applicant was exempt from paying for filing fees or biometric services. Individuals may still request a fee waiver if their documented annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or they demonstrate financial hardship.

A means-tested benefit is a public benefit—offered by federal, state, or local agencies—for which eligibility and amount considerations are based on a person’s income and resources. USCIS formerly considered Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income during eligibility evaluations.

USCIS now claims that receiving a means-based benefit is not an appropriate criteria in reviewing fee-waiver requests because income levels used to decide local assistance eligibility vary from state to state.

Under the revised criteria, individuals may still request a fee waiver if:

  • Their documented annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines; or

  • They demonstrate financial hardship.

However, USCIS will require applicants to complete Form I-912 and submit supporting documentation, including federal income tax transcripts. USCIS will not accept a letter stating the applicant is unable to afford filing fees or biometric services without a completed Form I-912.

As of Dec. 2, those seeking a fee waiver must submit the 10/24/19 version of this form to request a waiver of a required fee for immigration benefits. After Dec. 2, USCIS will reject any Form I-912 with an edition date of 03/13/18 or earlier, a fee waiver request submitted with a letter, or documentation of receipt of means-tested benefit to show eligibility for a fee waiver. USCIS will adjudicate any fee waiver request postmarked before Dec. 2 under the previous policy.