USCIS Restricts Criteria to Apply for Fee Waivers

Effective December 2, 2019, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is implementing a stricter, more formalized fee waiver policy. The USCIS justified this policy change by noting that the agency is almost entirely funded by fee revenue, and fee waivers cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Receipt of Means-Tested Benefit Cannot Be Used for Fee Waiver Requests

Under the current policy, which remains in effect through December 1, 2019, an applicant seeking a fee waiver had to prove one of three criteria: (1) the applicant was receiving a means-tested benefit; (2) the applicant’s household income was at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines at the time of filing; or (3) the applicant was experiencing a financial hardship. Once the new policy goes into effect, the receipt of a means-tested benefit will no longer be a qualifying criteria “[…] because income levels used to decide local assistance eligibility vary greatly from state to state.” USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli stated that the change will result in consistency in its decisions for fee waivers and ensure the agency continues to receive adequate funding.

Use Form I-912 to Request Fee Waiver from 02.Dec.2019

In addition, as of December 2, 2019, the applicant will be required to submit form I-912 to request a fee waiver. Under the current policy, the applicant seeking a fee waiver may submit a written request in lieu of the form I-912. The new policy eliminates this option. Further, the USCIS has confirmed that only the October 24, 2019, edition of the form I-912 will be accepted, once the new policy goes into effect.

Evidence Requirement

The new policy also provides guidance on the documentation required to demonstrate household income. The policy also clarifies that VAWA self-petitioners are not required to provide income documentation for the abuser or human trafficker.


Over the summer, Cuccinelli was asked by a reporter about Emma Lazarus’s poem, etched on the plinth of the Statue of Liberty. The poem, which states, “[…] Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. […]” Cuccinelli responded that the new motto should be, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet.” The Trump Administration’s change with regard to fee waivers is just the latest effort to make this sentiment a reality.


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