Government filing fees for immigration processing can be expensive. However, if you don’t earn much money and you don’t have a lot of assets, you can ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to let you file some (but not all) applications for free.
Instead of paying the filing fee with your application, you submit a form called “Request for Fee Waiver,” which USCIS calls “Form I-912.” If you can prove you don’t have the money, and your request is granted, you won’t have to pay the filing fee, and USCIS will continue processing your application. If your request is denied, USCIS will send back your application, with a letter saying that it won’t process it without receiving a fee payment as well.
When to File Form I-912
Form I-912 always goes together with some kind of application or petition for an immigration benefit you want, like a replacement green card or a certificate of citizenship. You can ask for a fee waiver when filing certain types of applications or petitions only. The instructions for Form I-912 tell you which ones. (Notably, you cannot use it for most adjustment of status green card applications.)
Form I-912 can’t be filed after you’ve already filed the application or petition, so you’ll need to have it done at the same time you’re filing your application or petition.
You submit Form I-912 requesting a fee waiver instead of enclosing the check or money order for the fee that you’d otherwise have to pay. If you’re filing more than one application or petition at the same time, you only need one Form I-912. (But make sure you list all the different applications or petitions that you’re submitting on Line 5 of the I-192.) However, if you later file another application or petition that has a waivable fee, you’ll need to submit another I-912 – USCIS won’t remember that it let you file other applications for free.
Line-by-Line Instructions for Form I-912
Here are some pointers for filling out the fee waiver form.
Section 1 of Form I-912 asks for information about the person who needs the fee waiver. Usually that’s you, but if you’re filing an application on behalf of your child, you would put the child’s information in Section 1.
If you use two names as your “last name” or “family name,” put them both in the box for Line 1.a. If you have no “middle name,” you can write “none” in the box for Line 1.c.
Line 2 asks for an Alien Registration Number, sometimes called an “A” number because it’s a series of numbers following the letter A. You may or may not have an A number – it’s very possible that you don’t. But if you’ve ever applied for an immigration benefit or been in immigration court, you probably do—check your immigration paperwork if you’re not sure. Write “N/A” (which means “not applicable”) on Line 2 if you don’t have an A number.
Line 5 asks for the form number of the application or petition you’re filing. Every form has a number – you’ll see it in the top right corner and also the bottom left corner.
Section 2 asks for information on your “dependent(s),” which can mean children, legal wards, your spouse, or your parents, if they depend on you for living expenses. You’ll notice that it says to complete the table if applicable. If you have no dependents or they have nothing to do with the immigration benefit you’re applying for and nothing to do with the fee waiver request, then Section 2 will not be applicable and you can write “N/A” next to Line 6.
One of the columns asks whether the dependent is included in the fee waiver request. The answer is yes only if the dependent is filing an application or petition that requires a fee waiver.
Section 3 is where you tell USCIS why you deserve a fee waiver. There are three different ways to qualify -- pick the easiest one for you.
You will automatically qualify if you can prove you receive a “means-tested benefit” or if your income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If you’re sure you can qualify one of those ways, just check the box in either Line 7.a. or 7.b. and leave the other boxes unchecked. It’s also okay to check more than one box (and prove you’re eligible in more than one way) if you’re not sure you can prove you’re eligible one particular way.
The form tells you which of the remaining sections of the I-192 you need to fill out – you can write “N/A” in the sections you don’t need to use.
If you currently receive a “means-tested benefit,” you should have checked the box in Line 7.a. of Section 3. You’ll fill out Section 4 and Section 7, and skip Sections 5 and 6.
A “means-tested benefit” is defined for you on page 2 of the I-912 instructions. (The instructions are contained in a separate document, available on the USCIS website.) Means-tested benefits can come from a federal government agency or a state agency, and include things like SNAP (“food stamps”) and Medicaid.
The important thing to remember is to attach proof that you (or your dependents) are getting the means-tested benefit. The best proof is a letter, form, or other document that came from the government and that has both the agency name and your name, showing that you’re receiving assistance or participating in the program.
Section 4 asks whether you are receiving the benefit now. You should be able to check the “Yes” box. If you are not currently receiving the benefit, you are likely not eligible for the fee waiver on the “means-tested benefit” basis.
Section 5 asks about your income. You need to fill this section out if you checked the box in Line 7.b. or Line 7.c. of Section 3.
Line 9 mentions “the stated income.” That means the total you enter in the last box on the page.
Line 10 asks for “average monthly wage income” – add up yours and the wage income of everyone in your household if more than one person works. Wage income is how much money you make before taxes, if you work for someone else. It could be a salary, or it could be the amount you make per hour multiplied by the number of hours you worked. The average is easy if you are on a salary or your income doesn’t change much month to month – just say what you made last month. If your wage income isn’t always the same every month, it’s probably best to get an average by adding up the amounts you earned in the past 12 months and then dividing by 12.
Line 11 is for all the other money you get each month, except for unemployment compensation that you get. (If other members of your household get unemployment, however, you should include it.) If you’re self-employed, this is where you list how much money your business makes.
If you’re filling out Section 5 and relying on low income to qualify for the fee waiver, you need to include documents proving your income. Your latest federal income tax return is always good (especially if you’re self-employed), although if it doesn’t reflect your current income very well, you should submit copies of paycheck stubs or statements from your employer showing how much you’re earning right now.
The instructions for Form I-912 will answer a lot of questions you might have about household size and income. Read the questions and answers for “Step 2” that begin on page 3 of the instructions.
You fill out Section 6 only if you checked the box in Line 7.c. of Section 3. (Make sure you fill out Section 5, too.) You’re doing this because your income might be too high to qualify for a fee waiver, but you have special circumstances that make it hard for you to pay the fee.
Line 12 is a big space for you to explain your hardship. You might have big medical bills that you must pay off every month, or you may not have been able to work for a while because of an injury, for example. If this is the case, USCIS will want to know about your “assets” – the value of everything you own, including money in the bank. List that in Line 15. For more information on assets, see page 5 of the instructions for Form I-912 under “Step 3.”
Line 16 is where you list how much you pay every month for things like rent and food, and every other living expense. You should be able to prove these amounts as much as possible. So, you should include copies or printouts of all your bills, receipts, invoices, and other documents that show money you have paid.
Everyone who is filing an application or petition that requires a fee needs to sign the fee waiver request form in Section 7, except for children under 14. If a child under 14 needs a fee waiver, a parent or guardian must sign for the child. (But if the parent or guardian already signed for himself or herself, there is no need to sign twice.)
Where to File Form I-912
A Form I-912 fee waiver request is never filed alone. As mentioned before, it’s filed together with the application or petition that otherwise requires a fee. So you’ll need to know the address of the USCIS office that accepts the application or petition you’re filing, and send everything there.