How to apply for a fee waiver for immigration procedures

This week in my Consulta Migratoria® column, I explain how certain individuals can apply for a fee waiver when filing their immigration paperwork:

This is the column:

Most immigration procedures require payment of fees to the government. To apply for U.S. citizenship, renew your green card, or obtain a work permit, among other things, you will have to pay certain fees for the government to process your paperwork.

For example, the citizenship application fee is $680, the green card renewal fee is $450 and a work permit costs $380. For certain people these fees are very high, especially for unemployed or low-income people.

What many do not know is that sometimes the government allows fee waivers for immigration procedures for people who can prove that they do not have enough money to pay them.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials evaluate the documentation to determine if the applicant is eligible. Waivers are not automatic and are at the sole discretion of USCIS. Each case is unique and is considered on a case-by-case basis.

These are some of the criteria that may determine inability to pay:

1. The person has qualified for public benefits such as Food Stamps, Medicaid/Medi-Cal or temporary assistance for needy families within the last six months.

2. The individual's income for the most recent tax year is at or below the 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

3. That the person is elderly (65 years of age or older when requesting a fee waiver).

4. The person is disabled.

5. The applicant's age and number of dependents.

6. Humanitarian reasons such as being temporarily indigent (homeless) or having no money to pay the fee without substantial hardship.

The applicant must complete Form I-912, Petition for Fee Waiver, and submit corroborating documents. Acceptable documents include: current Medicaid/Medi-Cal card, pay stubs such as W-2 forms, tax returns, mortgage or rent receipts, receipts for food, utilities (gas, electricity, telephone, water), medical and other essential expenses, and the applicant's bank statements.

Form I-912P provides the Federal Poverty Guidelines that apply when claiming a fee waiver. For example, the maximum income amount for a family of four is $35,325.

If the waiver is denied, the USCIS will return your application and give you the opportunity to restart the process by paying the appropriate fee.

Before initiating any proceedings, consult with a duly licensed immigration attorney or federally accredited representative to receive appropriate legal advice. Notaries, immigration consultants, paper fillers or multi-service providers cannot provide legal advice.