** LEGAL UPDATE **
Given that government filing fees for immigration processing typically run into hundreds of dollars at a pop, applicants who don’t earn much rely on being able, in some situations, to ask U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to let them file their applications for free. (8 C.F.R. § 103.7.) However, USCIS has recently cut back on which applicants qualify for this.
By means of a revision to Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, USCIS has (starting December 2, 2019) eliminated the means-tested benefit criteria that formerly allowed some applicants to become exempt from paying for filing fees.
In other words, while up to now, USCIS allowed fee waivers to people based solely on their receipt of such benefits as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it will no longer do so.
That leaves only two ways to ask for a fee waiver from USCIS: showing that your documented annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or demonstrating financial hardship.
USCIS's stated reason for this change is that different U.S. states use widely different criteria to decide whether people qualify for local assistance. However, the agency's decision also fits a pattern of hostility to immigrants who receive need-based assistance of any sort.
As before, applicants seeking fee waivers should fill out and submit Form I-912 and submit supporting documents along with their main application or petition. Fortunately, the list of applications and petitions that are eligible for a fee waiver has not changed.
Effective Date: December 2, 2019