Filling Out Form I-912 for an Immigration Fee Waiver

Can't afford the immigration application fee? You might be able to ask USCIS for a fee waiver.

By , J.D. UC Davis School of Law
Updated 4/02/2024

U.S. government filing fees for immigration application processing can be expensive, and there's a fee associated with nearly every form. However, if you don't earn much money to pay the fees with, and you don't have a lot of assets, you can in some instances ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to let you file your application for free. (8 C.F.R. § 103.7.) Here, we'll discuss whether and how to do that, and who qualifies.

Before Seeking a Waiver, Check Whether You're Already Fee-Exempt

Some categories of applicant are what's called "fee exempt," meaning they don't have to file a USCIS application fee at all, nor a waiver if they can't afford the fee. These categories have expanded in recent years, so it's definitely worth checking whether you're on the list. For example, starting April 1, 2024, fee exemptions will be automatic all the way through adjustment of status applications for the following, including family derivative applicants:

  • Refugees, if filing form(s) I-131, I-131A, I-765, or I-485.
  • T visa applicants (victims of human trafficking)
  • U visa applicants (crime victims assisting law enforcement)
  • VAWA applicants (claiming benefits under the Violence Against Women Act, including cancellation of removal)
  • Special Immigration Juvenile Status (SIJS) applicants
  • Conditional permanent residents filing I-751 with a waiver request based on the U.S. spouse's battery or extreme cruelty
  • Special Immigrant Visa (EB-4) applicants seeking status as Afghan or Iraqi interpreters, or employed by US Government (or International Security Assistance Force) and their
  • Current and former members of the U.S. armed forces, including those who served honorably on active duty, if filing form(s) I-765, I-485, I-360, or I-131.

(Also see 8 C.F.R. § 106.3(b).)

What Are the Standards for Receiving a Fee Waiver From USCIS?

As of new regulations passed in early 2024, applicants can receive a fee waiver by showing that they either:

  • receive a means-tested benefit (MTB) federal, state, or local benefit based on income (this includes means-tested benefits being received by a child in the household, for example Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, or SSI)
  • earn income at or below 150% of the federal Poverty Guidelines, or
  • are experiencing financial hardship, as described in the instructions for the 2024 version of Form I-912. Broadly speaking, it includes unexpected events such as family medical expenses (including both mental and physical conditions), unemployment, eviction, homelessness, victimization, and divorce.

Fee-waiver applicants will need to provide documentation showing they meet one of the above standards.

How Requesting a Fee Waiver From USCIS Works

Instead of paying the filing fee with your application, you would submit a "Request for Fee Waiver," which USCIS calls Form I-912, and include documents proving that you don't have the funds to pay the application fee. If your request is granted, USCIS will simply continue processing your application.

If your request is denied, USCIS will send back your entire application, along with a letter saying that it won't process it without receiving a fee payment as well. You would then need to resubmit along with the required fee.

When Do I File a Form I-912 Fee Waiver Request?

You don't file Form I-912 in advance. It must always be sent together with some kind of application or petition for an immigration benefit, such as for a replacement green card or a certificate of citizenship. Also, you can ask USCIS for a fee waiver only when filing certain types of applications or petitions. The instructions for Form I-912 tell you which ones.

Notably, you cannot ask for a fee waiver for most types of adjustment of status or green card applications, particularly family- and employment-based ones, because proving financial capacity is basic to proving eligibility for U.S. residence.

Should I Send a Check or Payment With the I-912, Just in Case?

When submitting Form I-912 requesting a fee waiver, this is meant to substitute (at least temporarily) for the check or money order for the fee that you'd otherwise have to pay. But some applicants have wondered whether, in order to save time, it might make sense to submit a "just in case" check. Unfortunately that's a dangerous tactic, because USCIS has been known to ignore the fee waiver request and cash the check.

If filing more than one application or petition at the same time, you need only one Form I-912. (But make sure you list all the different applications or petitions that you're submitting in Part 3 of the I-912.)

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 Guidance to Filling Out Form I-912

Here are some pointers for filling out the fee waiver form. These refer to the version of Form I-912 that was issued on 4/1/2024.

Part 1: Basis for Your Request

In Part 1, you select the category that best describes your situation. You will provide detailed information later on in the form. You are also asked for your current immigration status. This could be something like "refugee," "lawful permanent resident," or "U visa holder."

Part 2: Information About You (Requestor)

Part 2 of Form I-912 asks for information about the person who needs the fee waiver. Most likely that's you, but if you're filing an application on behalf of a child or a person whose disability makes them unable to fill out their own paperwork, you would put that person's information in Part 2.

In Questions 1-3, if you use two names as your "last name" or "family name," put them both in the "Family name" box. If you have no "middle name," you can write "(none)" in that box.

Question 4 asks for an Alien Registration Number, sometimes called an "A" number, because it's a series of numbers following the letter A. It's very possible that you don't have an A number. But if you've ever applied for an immigration benefit or been in immigration court, be sure check your immigration paperwork for one. If you don't have an A number, write "N/A" (which means "not applicable") in this box.

Question 5 asks for your USCIS Online Account Number. If you've filed a petition or application electronically, you likely received an account number. If you did not file anything electronically, simply leave this line blank.

Questions 6-8: Provide the date of birth, Social Security Number, and marital status for you or the person who is seeking the fee waiver.

Part 3: Applications and Petitions for Which You Are Requesting a Fee Waiver

This asks for the people who are filing the relevant immigration applications needing fee waivers and the form number of the main application or petition being filed. Every form has a number, which you'll see in the top right corner and also the bottom left corner. (For example, the naturalization application is an "N-400.")

Be sure to list all applications and petitions you're submitting.

Part 4: Means-Tested Benefits

This asks about whether you or the person receiving the waiver has already been acknowledged as financially needy, and is receiving public benefits on that basis. Showing this can help prove your financial need.

Part 5: Income at or Below 150 Percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines

The main way people typically qualify for a fee waiver is to show income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

In Questions 1 and 2, you'll need to detail your income or state whether you are unemployed and if so, how long you've been unemployed and whether you're receiving unemployment benefits. (It's okay if you do, but USCIS needs to assess how much that helps you support yourself.)

In Questions 3 to 5, you will need state how many people are in your household, starting with yourself, and how many people are earning income.

In Questions 6-9, you will need to provide information about your annual tax filings and your annual income, the income of household members, and any other sources of income or financial support. Notice the space provided for you to explain changes in your situation after you filed your most recent federal tax return.

You will also need to include documents with your waiver request, proving how much you earn. Your latest federal income tax return or tax transcript is good (especially if you're self-employed). If, however, it doesn't reflect your current income well, you should submit copies of pay stubs or statements from your employer showing how much you're earning right now.

Part 6: Financial Hardship

Here, you have an opportunity to explain any information that might affect your financial situation in ways USCIS wouldn't otherwise know, such as medical expenses or a job loss. Here, too, you will want to attach documentation proving your statements.

You fill this out only if you checked box C in Part 1, regarding your basis for waiver eligibility. (Make sure you fill out Part 3, too.) A common reason for filling out this part is that the applicant's income is too high to qualify for a fee waiver, but special circumstances make it hard to pay the fee.

Question 1 offers a big space to explain your hardship. You might, for example, have huge bills that you must pay off every month because of an uninsured disaster to your home, or you might not have been able to work for a while because of an injury or medical condition.

In such situations, USCIS will want to know about your "assets," that is, the value of everything you own that would be easy to turn into cash, including money in the bank. List assets in Question 2. For more information on what counts as assets, see the instructions for Form I-912.

Question 3 is where you list how much you pay every month for things like rent, food, other living expenses, loan repayments, and so on. Be sure to include copies or printouts of all your bills, receipts, invoices, and other documents that show money you have paid out.

Part 7: Requestor's Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature

Anyone filing an application or petition that requires a fee needs to sign the fee waiver request form, and check boxes indicating that they either understood it in English or used an interpreter to translate from a certain language.

If a child under 14 is requesting the fee waiver, a parent or guardian can sign for the child.

Parts 8 and 9:

These need to be filled out and signed only if an interpreter and/or attorney or paralegal or other assistant helped you understand or prepare the form.

Part 10:

Use this section to fill in any information that didn't fit in the earlier lines or boxes on the form.

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 USCIS 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. This address can normally be found on the same USCIS web page as the one that offers and discusses the form itself.

Can You Afford an Attorney?

If you're requesting a fee waiver, then chances are you'd have trouble paying an attorney, as well. Nevertheless, it's worth looking into, since the stakes are high when applying for U.S. immigration benefits, and delays or denials can create long-term barriers to approval. See, for example, How Expensive Is an Immigration Lawyer?.

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