Continuing from An Overview of USCIS Filing Fees and Fee Waivers (Pt. 1), here we will resume our discussion of the filing fees that the USCIS charges when people are petitioning to change their immigration status. While the first part of this blog was focused on outlining some of the specific filing fees the agency charges, here in Part 2, we will highlight some important information about fee waivers for applicants.

The USCIS grants fee waivers to applicants with limited resources; however, there are very strict eligibility requirements for qualifying for and obtaining these waivers.

The USCIS grants fee waivers to applicants with limited resources; however, there are very strict eligibility requirements for qualifying for and obtaining these waivers.

USCIS Fee Waivers

A fee waiver is essentially an exemption from having to pay a fee when submitting an application to the USCIS. For applicants who cannot afford to pay the filing fees, fee waivers are available as long as applicants can verify their need (i.e., their inability to pay the fees). Because waived or non-paid filing fees are absorbed by an increase in filing fees for other applicants, the USCIS carefully considers each waiver request it receives (as the agency has explained on its website).

Qualifying for USCIS Fee Waivers

In order to qualify for a fee waiver, applicants must be:

  • Currently receiving a “means-tested” benefit (i.e., any type of benefit that is only paid to people with extremely limited income and resources, as established through a rigorous application process; federal disability benefits are one example of such means-tested benefits)
  • At or below the poverty level when applying for the fee waiver
  • Experiencing some type of verifiable hardship that will prevent them from paying the filing fees (for instance, this can include a serious illness associated with costly medical bills, which has left them with insufficient resources to pay USCIS filing fees).

To apply for a USCIS fee waiver, applicants must:

  • Complete a Form I-912
  • Submit this form with the other form requesting the change in their immigration status
  • Submit hard copies of these forms (in other words, applicants cannot file for fee waivers online).

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