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 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.)
Instead of paying the filing fee with your application, you would 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.
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: 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 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.
Here are some pointers for filling out the fee waiver form. These instructions refer to the version of Form I-912 that was issued on 10/24/19 and due to expire on 10/31/2021.
In Part 1, you select the category that best describes your situation. You will provide detailed information later on in the form.
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, you would put the child's information in Part 2.
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 3 asks for an Alien Registration Number, sometimes called an "A" number because it's a series of numbers following the letter A. You might or might 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") if you don't have an A number.
Question 4 asks for your USCIS online account number. If you've filed a petition or application electronically, you would have received an account number. If you did not file anything electronically, simply leave this line blank.
Questions 5-7: Provide the date of birth, Social Security Number and marital status for you or the person who is seeking the fee waiver.
Question 8: This asks for the form number of the main application or petition you're filing, the fee for which you need waived. Every form has a number, which you'll see in the top right corner and also the bottom left corner. Be sure to list all applications and petitions you're submitting.
Question 9: This asks about whether you or the person receiving the waiver falls into a category of applicant given special consideration under U.S. immigration laws.
Parts 3 to 4
Parts 3-4 are where you tell USCIS why you deserve a fee waiver. This refers back to Part 1, where you checked the box that applies to your situation.
The main way to qualify for a fee waiver if your income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Questions 1-3 ask for information about your and your spouse's employment status.
Question 4 asks about your household size. Provide the names, dates of birth, relationship, marital status, whether they are full-time students and whether their income is counted in your household income.
In Questions 5-11, 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.
Finally, in Question 12, you have an opportunity to explain any new information that might affect your financial situation since you filed your most recent federal tax return.
You also need to include documents proving how much you earn. Your latest federal income tax return is good (especially if you're self-employed), although if 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.
The instructions for Form I-912 will answer a lot of questions you might have about household size and income.
You fill this out only if you checked box 2 in Part 1. (Make sure you fill out Part 3, 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.
Question 1 offers a big space for you to explain your hardship. You might have huge medical bills that you must pay off every month, or you might 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," 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 assets, see the instructions for Form I-912.
Question 3 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 out.
Anyone filing an application or petition that requires a fee needs to sign the fee waiver request form, 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.)
Parts 6 and 7
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.
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.