Can You Request Fee Waiver or Reduction When Applying for Naturalized Citizenship on Form N-400?

If you can't afford the N-400 fee, it's possible (but not always wise) if your income is low to request a waiver or reduced fee.

Updated by , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

Are you a lawful permanent resident who is now eligible to apply for naturalized U.S. citizenship? Congratulations! Applying for U.S. citizenship is an exciting moment for most immigrants, and is the last step in the U.S. immigration processes. Often, immigrants have spent years of waiting, attended multiple immigration interviews, and paid thousands of dollars in filing fees just to get to this point. And now you'll be asked to pay another high fee.

So, what happens if you are finally ready to naturalize, but cannot afford to pay the filing fee required to submit the N-400 citizenship application? The options depend on your household income level. You might be able to ask to pay:

  • a lower N-400 filing fee, or
  • no N-400 filing fee at all (with a "fee waiver").

We'll discuss both possibilities here. Realize, however, that if financial improprieties or irresponsibility led to the low income, you might be risking USCIS finding that your moral character doesn't merit U.S. citizenship, as also discussed below.

Also bear in mind that you will only be able to file by mail, not online. (All applicants requesting a fee waiver or paying a reduced N-400 fee must apply by mail.)

Requesting a Reduced Naturalization Application Fee From USCIS

Some potential applicants' earnings are too high to qualify for a full fee waiver, but might nevertheless entitle them to pay a reduced fee to file the N-400.

If your family income is within a certain range of the U.S. federal Poverty Guidelines, you might qualify for a reduced fee. (See 8 C.F.R. § 103.7(b)(1)(i)(BBB).) Starting April 1, 2024, that amount is above 150% but not more than 400% of the Poverty Guidelines.

The Poverty Guidelines levels are adjusted every year for inflation, and usually go up. That means if you're on a fixed income that hasn't changed lately, your chances of being granted a fee reduction get better every year.

To ask for the reduced fee, you'll need to fill out Part 10 of USCIS Form N-400 (the citizenship application), which asks about your household income and household size. You will also need to supply documentation proving these facts, as described in the online instructions to Form N-400.

Requesting a Full Naturalization Fee Waiver From USCIS

If your family income is below or equal to 150% of the U.S. federal Poverty Guidelines levels, you might qualify for a waiver of the entire N-400 fee, biometrics included.

To apply for an N-400 fee waiver, the easiest method is to fill out Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, and submit any supporting documents (although the regulations require only a "written request." See 8 C.F.R. § 103.7(c)(2).). Read Filling Out Form I-912 for an Immigration Fee Waiver, for detailed instructions on how to fill out the form, what documents to include, and when and how to file it.

How Does USCIS Decide Whether to Approve a Naturalization Fee Waiver?

When deciding whether to approve a Request for Fee Waiver, USCIS will determine whether you fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Receipt of benefits. If you or a qualified member of your household is currently receiving a means-tested benefit, meaning one for which the person's income and/or resources determine eligibility and/or the benefit amount, you might qualify for a fee waiver.
  • Low income. If you can demonstrate that your household income is at or below the 150% poverty guidelines level at the time you file the Request for Fee Waiver, you might qualify for a fee waiver.
  • Financial hardship. If you are experiencing a financial hardship that prevents you from paying the filing fee, including unexpected medical bills or emergencies, you might qualify for a fee waiver.

If you believe you fall into one of these categories, you will need to prove it to USCIS's satisfaction by submitting supporting documents along with your Form N-400 and I-912.

Will Requesting a Fee Waiver Affect One's Eligibility for Naturalization?

Although applicants for naturalization are eligible to apply for a fee waiver, submitting such a request could affect both the merits and the processing of the application for naturalization, as follows.

Asking for a Fee Waiver Could Risk Your Good Moral Character Finding

To apply for naturalization, applicants must meet multiple requirements, including that they are of good moral character. Obviously there is nothing inherently wrong with having a low income. Sometimes, however, requesting a fee waiver brings to light issues that go against a good moral character finding.

If, for example, an applicant took advantage of a public benefit without having been entitled to it, such as welfare or food stamps, USCIS could find that they committed fraud. Or, if the person is struggling financially because of credit judgments, or filed for bankruptcy, USCIS might find that they took advantage of the U.S. economic structure or was irresponsible and deprived others financially.

Additionally, if USCIS finds that the applicant is failing to pay child support, even if it's because of a significant financial strain, USCIS can, by law, find that the applicant lacks good moral character.

These are just examples of situations in which USCIS could use information submitted with the Request for Fee Waiver to determine that a person is not eligible for naturalization. If you plan to request a fee waiver along with your naturalization application, carefully review all of the information on Form I-912 and the evidence you submit in support of your request to make sure that you are not highlighting damaging information, or see a lawyer for a full analysis.

Risking USCIS Delaying Your Citizenship Case While Considering Fee Waiver

Aside from affecting the merits of your naturalization case, applying for a fee waiver can slow down your N-400's processing time. USCIS will first need to review the fee waiver request before it can review the Application for Naturalization.

What's more, if USCIS determines that you are not eligible for a fee waiver, it will send the entire naturalization package back to you to request that you pay the filing fee. USCIS will not review your Application for Naturalization and it will not issue a Receipt Notice until it gets your payment.

This whole back-and-forth process can slow down USCIS's processing of a naturalization application by weeks or months. This is important to consider, especially if you are in a hurry to naturalize. Perhaps you want to travel for an extended period of time, but you do not want to violate the terms of your permanent residence. Or maybe an election is coming up in which you plan to vote.

When making the decision of whether or not to request a fee waiver, consider all of the possible effects.

Getting Legal Help

Given the challenges of your situation, you could make your life easier by hiring an experienced immigration attorney to handle your naturalization case. Although it's an added expense, the attorney can analyze whether you qualify for a reduced fee or a waiver, prepare the paperwork, and monitor the progress toward approval. This can save you delays and setbacks.

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