In November 2010, the USCIS published a form titled I-912 Request for Fee Waiver. This document was created as a mechanism to enable people to be able to apply for immigration benefits even though they were not able to pay the mandatory application or petition fees. Prior to this form, it was possible to request a fee waiver for certain benefits, but there was no standardized way approved by USCIS. Even with the creation of the I-912, a fee waiver could still be requested without having to use the I-912
The USCIS has created an Instruction Document to assist in the implementation of the I-912 Fee Waiver Form. The Instructions provide the basis for the use of the fee waiver. It also lists the applications and petitions the fee waiver can be applied towards. Next, it gives detailed instructions on how to complete the form itself and what supporting documents can be attached to the request. Finally, it states the process used by USCIS in determining if the waiver is to be granted.
There are three main ways to qualify for the I-912 fee waiver.
The first way is to provide evidence that the applicant is currently receiving a means test benefit such as food stamps. The easiest proof of this is a document from the agency indicating that as of the date of the waiver request, the applicant is receiving the benefit. This method of verification is useful because it not only indicates in written form that the applicant is receiving a means test benefit but it also provides direct proof that a Federal or State agency has conducted an analysis of the applicant and determined if he or she qualifies for the benefit.
The second way is to show the household income of the applicant is 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time the waiver request is made. The Federal Poverty Guidelines is an objective way of determining “need" and, thus, it can be applied to all applicants in a fear and equitable way. The prior year tax return can be used as evidence of qualifying household income.
The third way is to provide evidence that the applicant has encountered a financial hardship caused by a recent event that has caused financial hardship to the applicant. The requirement of paying the fee would be considered unjust. This way is a catch all method to enable individuals to attempt to present evidence of inability, and it leaves the decision to discretion of the agent. It is extremely important that sufficient evidence be provided that shows the hardship. The more objective the evidence the more reliable it will be to prove hardship.
The creation of the I-912 Request for Waiver has been an important step in standardizing the process of obtaining relief for people in extreme financial need. Over time, there will develop a best practice method for use of the application. This will be extremely important in relation to the financial hardship method of qualifying the applicant for the fee waiver.
Fee Waiver Form http://www.uscis.gov/files/form/i-912.pdf