USCIS Proposes New Fee Waiver Form31 Jul 2010
USCIS taketh away, but sometimes it giveth. In July of 1997, USCIS raised fees for a broad range of immigration filings, including the green card, which jumped overnight from about $400 to over $1,000, including the mandatory biometrics fee. USCIS recently announced its intention to carry out a new round of fee increases, later this year. With filing fees on the rise, and many people still struggling in a turbulent economy, we would not be surprised if USCIS noticed an uptick in fee waiver requests.
Seeking “to provide relief for financially disadvantaged individuals seeking immigration benefits,” USCIS recently sought public comment on a draft fee waiver form, dubbed I-912, which would regularize the fee waiver process. (See USCIS News Release, USCIS Publishes First-Ever Proposed Fee Waiver Form, 16.Jul.2010.) According to the USCIS, the proposed form was developed in response to public concerns “that the absence of a standardized fee waiver form led to confusion about the criteria that had to be met as well as the adjudication standards.”
Under current agency practice, applicants seeking a fee waiver must submit an affidavit or unsworn statement indicating why s/he cannot afford the filing fee. Practitioners have often complained about the seemingly ad hoc nature of the process. According to the USCIS, the proposed new fee waiver system will bring clarity to the system, with a new form designed to verify inability to pay, and clear criteria for determining eligibility for a fee waiver. For example, an applicant who can prove that s/he has received a means-tested benefit in the past six months need not furnish further evidence of inability to pay.
Public comments on the new form are being solicited until September 13, 2010, at www.regulations.gov. We thank the USCIS for taking these steps toward introducing greater predictability and consistency into the fee waiver process. It’s an idea whose time has come.