Can we get a fee waiver to apply for our green card (adjustment of status)?

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Question:

I’m a U.S. citizen, and I recently married a fellow grad student of mine, who is from China. She is pregnant, and we are expecting twins in a few months. We would like to submit a green card application for her, but since we’re both in school, we have no source of income, and the application forms are pretty expensive. Can we submit a fee waiver request with the application forms?

Answer:

Applicants may request a waiver of many of the application fees charged by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), using Form I-912. But it’s not allowed for either Form I-130 (the form you would need to submit in order to petition for your wife) nor, in certain situations, for Form I-485 (the form your wife would have to fill out to adjust status). Specifically, fee waivers for Form I-485 are not accepted by USCIS if filed by an applicant who must prove that he or she is not likely to become a public charge – which is exactly what your wife would have to prove (at least based on the facts you’ve given).

In a family-based green card application, applicants must, with the help of their U.S. citizen petitioners (you) prove that they will not likely have to rely on need-based government assistance (sometimes called welfare). This requirement is described in Nolo’s article, “Who May Be Denied a Green Card as a Likely Public Charge.”

Another issue you’ll need to deal with is that you, as the petitioner, must demonstrate that you have a sufficient income and/or assets to support your wife and, in fact, your entire household. If your income and assets are not high enough, your wife’s green card will not be granted. For details and strategies, see the articles in the “U.S. Sponsor's Financial Responsibilities” section of Nolo’s website.

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