U.S. 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 "Request for Fee Waiver," which USCIS calls Form I-912. If you can prove you don't have the funds, and your request is granted, you won't have to pay the application filing fee, and USCIS will continue processing your application.
If your request is denied, USCIS will send back your entire application, with a letter saying that it won't process it without receiving a fee payment as well.
Form I-912 always gets sent together with some kind of application or petition for an immigration benefit, such as a replacement green card or a certificate of citizenship. 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 use it for most adjustment of status green card applications, because proving financial capacity is basic to proving your eligibility.)
Form I-912 can't be filed after you've already filed the application or petition: You'll need to submit it 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. In fact, submitting a "just in case" check is dangerous, 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.
Here are some pointers for filling out the fee waiver form. These refer to the version of Form I-912 that was issued on 3/10/2021.
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.
Part 2: Information About You
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.
Part 3: Applications and Petitions for Which You Are Requesting a Fee Waiver
This asks for the people who are filing applications and the form number of the main application or petition being filed, 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.
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.
Part 5: Income at or Below 150 Percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
The main way to qualify for a fee waiver if your 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.
In Questions 3 and 4, you will need describe your household; first, whether you are married and your spouse lives in that household. Then, you must state whether you are the primary breadwinner. Next, you will list everyone living in your household, starting with yourself, and count them up (so the government can tell how many people are relying on the income). (If you're not the primary income-provider, put that person's name on the second line, just after yours.)
Provide household members' names, dates of birth, relationship, marital status, whether they are full-time students and whether they are counted in your household income.
In Questions 5-9, 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 in your waiver request, 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.
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 3 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.
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 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. 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. Family members living in the same household must also sign here, unless they can't honestly say they either speak English or used an interpreter. In the latter case, they'll need to sign in Part 8.
The only signature exception is 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.)
Part 8: Family Member's Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
The only family members who need to sign here are those who couldn't sign in Part 7, most likely because they (unlike the rest of the family) do not speak English, or needed an interpreter, but for a different language than the one the rest of the family listed in Part 7.
Parts 9 and 10:
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 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 offers and discusses the form itself.