Form I-912 Guide: Understanding Fee Waiver Eligibility and Process

Form I-912, officially known as the Request for Fee Waiver, serves as a pathway for individuals who cannot afford the filing fees associated with various immigration forms and services. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers this provision to ensure equitable access to immigration benefits, regardless of an applicant’s financial situation. To be eligible for a fee waiver, applicants must present evidence of their financial hardship, whether it stems from unemployment, significant debts, or receipt of a qualifying means-tested benefit.

The process of obtaining a fee waiver through Form I-912 involves several steps and specific criteria that must be fulfilled. Applicants are required to demonstrate their inability to pay by providing supporting documentation. The qualitative assessment by USCIS includes reviewing the applicant’s income level, financial liabilities, and eligibility for public benefits that are means-tested.


The qualitative assessment by USCIS includes reviewing the applicant’s income level, financial liabilities, and eligibility for public benefits that are means-tested. A successful fee waiver application can alleviate the financial burden on individuals and families during their immigration proceedings, allowing them to access necessary services without the deterrent of cost.

Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility for a fee waiver under Form I-912 hinges on specific criteria that demonstrate an individual’s inability to pay for USCIS services.

Qualifying for Fee Waiver

An individual must provide clear documentation that supports their inability to pay the USCIS application or biometric service fees. They must select at least one qualifying criterion and substantiate their claim with evidence.

Means-Tested Benefit Criteria

An applicant qualifies for a fee waiver if they, their spouse, or the head of their household is currently receiving a means-tested benefit. Means-tested benefits are those that require income qualification, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Income at or Below 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines

The fee waiver eligibility extends to those whose household income is at or below 150 per cent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The applicant must include evidence, such as tax returns or income statements, to demonstrate they meet this criterion.

Financial Hardship

Should an applicant not meet the other criteria but face significant financial hardship that prevents payment of the fees, they can qualify for a fee waiver. They need to explain their financial situation, including unexpected medical bills or emergencies, that contribute to their financial hardship.

Completing Form I-912

When preparing Form I-912, it’s crucial for an applicant to provide accurate and complete personal details, include necessary information for any family members applying with them, attach the required supporting documentation, and, if applicable, supply details regarding their interpreter and preparer.

Personal Information

Applicants must start by entering their full legal name, mailing address, date of birth, and Alien Registration Number (if available). It is important to use black ink and print legibly if the form is being filled out by hand.

Applying with Family Members

If family members are included in the fee waiver request, the applicant should list the full names and Alien Registration Numbers (if applicable) of all family members. Each family member’s relationship to the applicant must be clearly specified.

Documentation Required

The applicant needs to provide evidence of their inability to pay the filing fees, which may include:

  • Recent tax returns
  • Evidence of income (pay stubs, employment letters)
  • Proof of government assistance (benefit letters, award notices)

All documents should be current and clearly support the claim for a fee waiver.

Interpreter and Preparer Information

If an interpreter or preparer is used, their full name and address should be provided. Additionally, the interpreter must sign and date the form, while preparers should also record their contact information and complete the declaration section highlighting their involvement.

Supporting Evidence

When applying for a fee waiver with Form I-912, evidence must substantiate the claim of inability to pay the required fees. Specific types of supporting evidence are essential to clearly demonstrate eligibility.

Evidence of Means-Tested Benefit

Individuals may provide proof of receiving means-tested benefits as evidence for a fee waiver. Such benefits are often granted by federal, state, or local entities based on income level. Acceptable evidence includes, but is not limited to:

  • Benefits letters: Official documentation from the agency awarding the benefit,
  • Approval notices: Documents indicating current recipient status.

Evidence of Income

Documentation of income is necessary to establish financial standing. An applicant should present:

  • Tax returns: Most recent tax documents.
  • Employment records: Pay stubs or employer letters detailing income.
  • Additional income sources: Statements for any other income received.

Evidence of Financial Hardship

Proof of financial hardship provides context to the applicant’s financial situation. An applicant may include:

  • Expense statements: Bills or other statements detailing regular expenses.
  • Hardship letters: Personal letters that explain the financial difficulties being faced.

Supporting evidence should be current, relevant, and clearly documented to reinforce the request for a fee waiver.

Submission Process

When filing Form I-912, the applicant must follow specific guidelines to ensure correct submission to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The process consists of where to file the form, understanding who can claim exemption from the filing fee, and knowing the expected timelines for processing.

Where to File

Form I-912 should be sent to the USCIS address designated for the specific application or petition that the applicant is seeking a fee waiver. It is imperative to consult the USCIS website for the most current filing addresses and to verify that the form accompanying the fee waiver is also sent to the correct location.

Filing Fee Exemption

To qualify for a fee waiver with Form I-912, an applicant must demonstrate an inability to pay the USCIS filing and biometric service fees. The applicant should include evidence, such as proof of income or receipt of a means-tested benefit, to support their claim. All supporting documents must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation.

Timelines for Processing

The processing time for Form I-912 may vary and is subject to change based on the USCIS workload and the specifics of the individual case. It is crucial for applicants to submit Form I-912 as early as possible to avoid delays with the processing of the accompanying immigration form. Applicants should routinely check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date processing times.

After Submission

Once an applicant submits Form I-912, the request undergoes a series of steps handled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The applicant can expect to receive a notice of receipt, possibly provide additional information, and finally, be notified of the decision.

Receipt of Application

Upon submission of Form I-912, USCIS issues a Notice of Action to acknowledge receipt. This notice, also known as Form I-797C, typically arrives within 2-3 weeks after the application has been submitted.

Requests for Additional Information

USCIS may determine that additional information is necessary to process the fee waiver request. In such cases, the applicant will receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). The applicant should respond promptly, providing all required documentation to support the fee waiver eligibility.

Decision Notification

The decision on a Form I-912 request is communicated through a written notice. If approved, the applicant receives a waiver for the specified USCIS form’s filing fee. In case of denial, the applicant will be informed of the decision and may be required to pay the applicable filing fee to proceed with the immigration application.

Special Considerations

When submitting Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, applicants must be aware of specific provisions that apply to military service members and individuals requiring disability accommodations. These provisions ensure fair and accessible processing for those with distinctive circumstances.

Military Service Members

Military service members and certain veterans may benefit from the exemption of fees or special processing of their immigration form requests under certain conditions. Applicants who are members of the U.S. armed forces or their spouses and children may be eligible for a fee waiver when submitting Form I-912 if financial hardship is demonstrated. It is essential for service members to provide proof of their military status and any documents that support their fee waiver requests.

Disability Accommodations

Applicants with disabilities may request special accommodations for the processing of their Forms I-912 to ensure equal access to immigration benefits. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) takes into consideration the unique needs of individuals with disabilities, such as providing sign language interpreters or ensuring the availability of information in accessible formats. Applicants should clearly outline the nature of their disabilities and the type of accommodations they are seeking in their fee waiver request.

Renewal and Updates

The process of maintaining an active and accurate Form I-912 involves regular updates to personal details and understanding the conditions for fee waiver renewals.

Updating Personal Details

Individuals must ensure that all personal information on Form I-912 remains accurate and current. If there is a change in circumstances like a new address or change in financial status, one must update these details promptly. Accuracy is crucial to avoid delays or issues with the application for which the fee waiver is requested.

Renewal of Fee Waiver

A fee waiver granted through Form I-912 is not indefinite and may require renewal for ongoing immigration applications or petitions. Applicants should be vigilant about the expiration dates and submit a renewal request if continued financial assistance is needed. Timeliness in renewing a fee waiver ensures uninterrupted processing of related immigration forms.