Is the fee to file for naturalization (U.S. citizenship) too expensive for you, possibly leading you to delay your application despite being already eligible? Fortunately, it's possible to qualify for a discount.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) charges a fee for almost every application it processes—and many of those fees are in the hundreds of dollars. The fee to file for naturalization, in order to become a citizen of the United States, is $640 (2019 figure). Most applicants must also pay a biometrics fee of $85.
It's possible to ask the U.S. government to "waive" (overlook) this and other fees in some circumstances, by filling out Form I-912 and submitting it with the application. However, not everyone's income is low enough to qualify for a complete waiver. Thus many people who don't qualify for a fee waiver might nevertheless find it difficult to pay the full $725 in order to become a U.S. citizen.
If, however, your income is below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (but still higher than the amount qualifying you for a fee waiver), you can request a fee reduction. If USCIS approves your request, it will accept a naturalization fee of $320 plus the usual biometrics fee ($85).
In order to request a fee reduction, you must file a Form I-942 Request for Reduced Fee, within the same package as your N-400 Application for Naturalization, supporting evidence, and check, money order, or other form of payment of the reduced fee itself.
If you are applying with other family members, you may all use the same I-942 Form, as long as you list your entire household there.
Here are some pointers for filling out the form:
Part 1. The first part of Form I-942 asks for your name, marital status, alien registration number (A#), and date of birth. Since this form applies only to naturalization applicants, you will have an alien number, and can find it on your permanent resident card (“green card”).
Part 2. In Part 2, you must name all family members who will be requesting the reduced fee. You do not need to add family members unless they are also filing for naturalization and also requesting the fee reduction. If no other family members are applying with you, leave this part blank.
Part 3. Part 3 is where you explain how much income you earn, how much other people in your household earn, and why the U.S. government should grant you a reduced fee.
Section 1 asks about employment. If you are both a student and employed, put “other” and explain in the box.
In section 2, you will need to state whether you are married and whether your spouse provides income to your household.
Section 3 asks you to list the members of your household. This includes you and anyone dependent upon your income. If you are not the head of your household, it includes the head of your household and anyone who is dependent upon that person's income. It is useful to have your tax return handy, so that you know how much income you made and whom you have claimed as a dependent on your tax return.
Section 4 concerns your income. USCIS expects you to put the adjusted gross income that you claimed on your most recent U.S. tax return here. This is line 37 of IRS Form 1040, and is also clearly marked on the 1040EZ. If you have not filed a tax return, estimate your annual income counting back 12 months.
Section 5 asks you to provide any additional income provided by family members. If your spouse or another person in your household works, provide that person's income here. But don't include someone who just lives with you and doesn't provide financial support.
For Section 6, record how much you receive from any other source. You will need to provide documentation for each form of income. For example, if you receive alimony, you should submit a copy of the court order or divorce decree showing the amount.
Add up the dollar amount of income from each box in Sections 4-6, and enter the total in Section 7.
Section 8 is where you must explain whether anything has changed since your last tax return. This includes positive or negative changes. Often people will use this space to explain, for example, if they lost their job. Provide as much detail as possible in this space; and also provide supporting evidence to accompany the form.
Part 4. The main requestor must sign Form I-942 in Part 4, Section 6. This will be the person filing for naturalization who is requesting the fee reduction. If you included any family members in Part 2, they will need to sign and date the form in Sections 7-10.
Part 5. Fill out Part 5 only if a family member used an interpreter or preparer to understand the form even though the main requestor did not.
Part 6. You must complete Part 6 if you used an interpreter.
Part 7. You must complete Part 7 if someone prepared the form for you. Usually the preparer would complete this for you and sign.
Part 8. If you ran out of room while filling out the form, use Part 8 to provide additional information. List the Page Number, Part Number, and Item Number, so that the USCIS officer who reviews it can find the original question that you are continuing to answer.
File the I-942 Request for Reduced Fee directly with your N-400 Application for Naturalization. This means that you must prepare both applications and provide supporting evidence for both.
You can find more about qualifying and applying for citizenship in Who Can Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
You will then mail the applications to the appropriate mailing address found on USCIS's N-400 page along with the reduced filing fee and all supporting documents. You cannot file Form N-400 online if you are requesting a reduced fee.
Once USCIS accepts your application, and approves the fee waiver request, you will receive by mail a receipt notice acknowledging your application and payment.