Practice Pointer: Best Practices for Preparing and Filing Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver
By AILA’s Afghan Response Task Force1
This practice pointer addresses best practices for preparing and filing Form I-912, which is used to request a waiver of the filing fee for certain USCIS applications and petitions. You can request a fee waiver if: 1) your form is eligible for a fee waiver; and 2) you provide the required supporting documentation of eligibility. Practitioners should carefully review the USCIS instructions for completing Form I-912 as failure to provide the proper supporting documentation will likely lead to rejection.
I. Completing the Form I-912
We recommend using the most recent version of the Form I-912 with an edition date of 09/03/2021), even though a written fee waiver request and old versions of the form are also technically accepted by USCIS.
Form Tip: Practitioners should make sure to write the total number of people/forms requiring a fee waiver at page #2, part #3, item #1 of the form. Usually this number is “1” unless it is a family-related case.
I-912 Fee Waiver for the Applicant of the Underlying Petition
The Form I-912 is used by an applicant(s) or a petitioner who cannot pay the filing fee for the underlying application or petition. For example, if seeking a fee waiver for a humanitarian parole application, the U.S. requestor on Form I-131 must be fee waiver eligible to file a fee waiver, rather than the individual listed as a beneficiary of the Form I-131.
The Three Bases for A Fee Waiver Request
Part #1 of Form I-912 asks for the basis of the fee waiver request. The requestor can select one or more of the following bases:
- the requestor, spouse or head of household is receiving a means tested benefit;
- the requestor’s household adjusted gross income is at or less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines see I-912P chart; or
- the requestor has a financial hardship.
Practice Tip: You can select one or more reason for requesting a fee waiver, but if you select more than one basis, you should ensure that your documentation is correct and clearly establishes eligibility for each basis. It is best practice to select only one basis where the requestor can clearly document eligibility under that basis.
Practice Tip: Discuss all options thoroughly with your client to ensure that you select the best option for your client to establish eligibility. For example, if your client is income eligible and has access to their recently filed IRS Form 1040, there is no reason to ask them to get a verification of benefits letter for waiver based on a means tested benefit. Conversely, if your client can easily get a verification of benefits letter showing receipt of SNAP/food stamps, then there is no reason to submit the IRS Form 1040 or proof of Medicaid.
Form Tip: Form I-912 has many sections that can be left blank depending on the basis selected, which often confuses practitioners who are nervous about leaving sections blank. Only fill out the sections pertaining to the basis you are selecting. If a section of the form is inapplicable to the request, USCIS instructions indicate that you should write “N/A” in that section.
A. Basis 1: Requestor Is Receiving a Means-tested Benefit
What Is, and Is not, a Means-Tested Benefit?
A means-tested benefit is a public benefit received from a federal, state, or local agency, where the granting agency considers the income and resources of the recipient in determining eligibility. Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are considered means-tested benefits programs. Conversely, Medicare, unemployment benefits, Social Security benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and student financial aid/loans are not considered means-tested benefits by USCIS. See Additional Information on I-912 Fee Waivers.
If the fee waiver request is being made because the requestor, spouse or head of household is receiving a means-tested benefit, then the required information should be placed in Part #4 Means-Tested Benefit. According to the form instructions, “If you provide sufficient proof that you receive a means-tested benefit, your fee waiver will generally be approved.” For this basis, a letter, notice or agency document may be used to show receipt of a benefit if the letter is recent (within the last 30 days is recommended). A copy of a Medicaid card is not sufficient documentation of a means-tested benefit.
Practice Tip: Each means-tested benefit that is listed on the verification of benefits letter you are submitting must also be listed on the means-tested benefit chart located on Form I-912, but the applicant is not required to list every single means-tested benefit currently received. For example, if both food stamps benefits and cash aid are listed on the verification of benefits letter, you should list both on the Form. However, if you have a recent verification of benefits letter for food stamps only, this is sufficient and you do not have to get documentation for the other mean-tested benefits currently being received.
Form Tip: On Page #2, Part #4, Item #1, for the field, . For the field “Date Benefit Was Awarded” ask the recipient or check the date on the agency letter (an approximate date can be used). “Date Benefit Expires” write “current” if the benefit is still being received.
For supporting documentation, you can attach recently dated letters from the local social services agency or other governmental agency issuing the means-tested benefit that show the name and address of the applicant and clearly indicate the benefit being received. If the applicant does not have recently mailed letters, a verification of benefits letter can be obtained by contacting the social services or another governmental agency and asking for this letter to be emailed/mailed. Some counties provide access to verification of benefits letters by way of online portals or email addresses. Check with your local agencies for specific guidance.
Practice Tip: The Verification of Benefits letter should be recent (last thirty days is recommended) and it should clearly state the name of the applicant. Some agencies stamp the letters as well. Be sure that you obtain either one letter per applicant or a letter that has the entire household listed. You can make copies of the letter when needed. Highlighting the name of the applicant is recommended. Although there is often a head applicant for each household, the agency should be able to include all the names of all recipients on the document for reference purposes or issue individual letters per household member. Note that, if the name of the recipient does not match the applicant’s name on the underlying USCIS benefit form, the fee waiver may be rejected.
Practice Tip: For Medicaid benefits, it is important that the letter states that the benefits have no share of cost associated with them (”no cost”/”no share of cost”). A share of cost may indicate the person falls out of the required income range, and therefore may lead to a rejection of the fee waiver request.
Practice Tip: Be sure to ask your client when their means-tested benefit began, as Form I-912 asks for the start date of each benefit listed. If your client does not know the actual start date, you can certainly provide an estimated date on the form.
B. Basis 2: Income Eligibility (at or less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines)
For requests based upon the requestor’s household income, practitioners should fill out Part #5 “Income at or Below 150 Percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines” of Form I-912 and consult the Federal Poverty Guidelines I-912P to establish that the adjusted gross income of the household is at or less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. To calculate household size, every member of the household, including the primary requestor (who is marked as self on the form) should be counted, including all dependents listed on the latest IRS 1040 Form. Income of all household members is considered in determining eligibility. A roommate is not considered a household member, unless they are contributing to the household income.
Practice Tip: Always ask about dependents listed on the client’s recent IRS Form 1040, as clients sometimes forget to mention their parents who have been listed as dependents on the form.
Sufficient documentation to show income eligibility.
To document income eligibility, the requestor should submit the following:
- Federal IRS 1040 Form (State filing not required). Submitting all pages of the IRS 1040 form is not necessary. It is recommended to extract the main filling pages (generally first few pages) and any relevant schedules and the digital or copied wet signature page(s). USCIS does not want to receive a large IRS 1040 Form so it is important to really extract only the essential pages.
- If the fee waiver requestor has indicated that their income has changed since filing the latest IRS 1040 Form (e.g., job loss, etc.) on Part #5, Page 4, Item 9, practitioners should submit evidence of changed circumstances such as: 1) recent consecutive pay stubs for a minimum of the last month or a statement from the requestor’s employer showing recent wages paid in the last month; and/or 2) unemployment received or other proof of situational changes. The Form also provides adequate space to explain the change of circumstances. Both documentation and a statement are recommended to explain these changes in income.
Practice Tip: For students who are tax exempt and are not claimed on their parents’ federal tax returns, you can provide proof of full-time student enrollment.
Practice Tip: For those separated or not living with their spouse, they do not have to include their spouses’ income, but they must include any financial support received by their spouse in Item #7 and provide proof of legal separation or separate household addresses.
C. Basis 3: Financial Hardship
Part #6 “Financial Hardship,” of Form I-912 should be completed for those making a fee waiver request based on financial hardship. This section may also be completed for those with a household income that is above 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. According to the form’s instructions, the information in Part #6, item #1 “may include, but is not limited to, medical expenses of family members, unemployment, eviction, and homelessness.” In Part #6, item #3 requiring documentation of monthly expenses and liabilities, the form’s instructions indicate the requestor should “[p]rovide evidence, where possible, such as copies of monthly bills and payments, and documentation for monthly expenses and any extenuating circumstances, such as medical bills. If you cannot provide evidence of income, you may submit affidavits from religious institutions, non-profits, or community-based organizations verifying that you are currently receiving some benefit or support from them.”
Practice Tip: Financial Hardship is the most complicated and time-intensive basis to prove and should be selected only if the other bases are not possible and you have sufficient documentation that shows that expenses outweigh income and assets. USCIS generally requires that all assets and monthly expenses and liabilities that are listed for this basis be verifiable through clear and recent documentation such as recent monthly bills and statements.
II. Filing the Form I-912
There is no filling fee for Form I-912. The form should be filed with the underlying application(s) and cannot be subsequently filed. USCIS adjudicates the fee waiver before adjudicating the underlying application, and generally issues a receipt after a fee waiver is approved. If a fee request is rejected, the entire benefits packet is not considered properly filed and will be mailed back to the attorney of record asking for the proper fee to be included and for the packet to be resubmitted with a cover page that is provided by USCIS identifying it as a resubmission.
Practice Tip: It is important to write “Fee Waiver Requested” on the cover letter as many applications are rejected by USCIS because the fee waiver form was never adjudicated by USCIS. Make every effort to flag the fee waiver form with highlighting and captions. Also, place the Form I-912 after your cover letter and before the underlying application so that it is clearly visible for adjudication by USCIS.
The USCIS Fee Waiver Guidance and the Form I-912 instructions are both critically important in determining which underlying USCIS forms can utilize fee waivers. For example, a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is not fee waiver eligible, but in comparison, a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is eligible. In addition to form filing fees, biometrics fees are also fee waiver eligible. If USCIS approves a Form I-912 request, it will waive both the filing fee and any applicable biometric (fingerprint) fee. Note also that you do not have to file a I-912 fee waiver for forms that do not require a fee.
How many Form I-912 Fee Waivers do you need?
You will need to file one Form I-912 for each application or petition unless it is a family-related benefit/application in which case one form can be filed but the applications have to be sent in together in one mailing package. In family-related cases, you can send one Form I-912 and have all parties sign on the family signature page located on Page #6 of the current form. It is not required that you file one Form I-912 for the family-related cases; you can still file a singular Form I-912 for each applicant. Examples of possible family-related cases are:
- Three children from one family applying for a certificate of citizenship at the same time; and
- A family of asylees (parents and children) applying for adjustment of status at the same time.
- A family-related I-765 applications for Work Authorization
Practice Tip: The Form I-912 instructions clearly state that you can file one I-912 for the whole family in family-related cases, and you must send all the forms together in one packet. However, sometimes applications can get separated in the initial processing at the lockbox and be rejected for a missing filing fee. A helpful tip to avoid a rejection is to photocopy the Form I-912 and attach it to each application in the packet or file each application with its own I-912 in leiu of one I-912 Form for the entire family.
III. Afghan Crisis and Use of Fee Waivers
Humanitarian parole is a temporary discretionary authorization to enter the United States that can be granted based on humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons. An application for humanitarian parole is made on Form I-131, Application for Travel Document and must be accompanied by an Affidavit of Support on Form 1-134. The filing fee for each application for humanitarian parole is $575.00 unless the fee is waived based on an approved Form I-912.
The $575 filing fee for each humanitarian parole application has caused much concern in both the Afghan advocacy community, as well as the immigration bar, due to the dire circumstances of many applicants and the need for swift handling of cases filed by Afghan nationals during this catastrophic time. Typically, the case processing is delayed by fee waiver requests an average of 3 weeks to 2 months depending on the adjudication location. This fact, when combined with the growing processing delays associated with the current large backlog of humanitarian parole applications, suggests that fee waivers should be explored and utilized at this time only for individuals who clearly cannot pay the underlying application fees and have no other option.
Practice Tip: In determining fee waiver eligibility, the fact that a person had a sponsor on an affidavit of support (either Form I-864 or Form I-134) does not prevent a person from requesting a fee waiver. Household income of the requestor is reviewed, not the income of any affidavit of support sponsor, unless the sponsor is part of the requestor’s household.
Practice Tip: If the U.S. requestor on Form I-131 is fee waiver eligible, then each humanitarian parole application being filed by that requestor requires its own separate Form I-912. As a practical matter, the form can be copied for each humanitarian parole application if the underlying U.S. requestor on Form I-131 remains the same. For example, for a family of ten individuals with the same fee waiver eligible U.S. requestor on Form I-131, would have 10 identical Form I-912 fee waivers submitted, one in each individual packet.
Practice Tip: The Form I-131 U.S. requestor and the Form I-134 financial sponsor can be different persons. Therefore, you may have a situation where you have a fee waiver eligible U.S. requestor and a different person serving as the I-134 financial sponsor.
Advocacy for Blanket Fee Waiver
A blanket fee waiver does not yet exist for humanitarian parole applications on behalf of Afghan nationals, although USCIS has the authority to issue a discretionary blanket waiver based on the regulations at 8 C.F.R. 103.7(d) AILA has advocated for USCIS to issue a blanket waiver on fee waiver applications. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons have also urged USCIS to issue a blanket waiver on filing fees for humanitarian parolees. In recent stakeholder discussions with DHS leadership, USCIS noted that it is considering a blanket waiver for Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, and Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization; however at this time, USCIS is not considering a blanket waiver of the Form I-131 likely due to the volume of applications that are being received.
1 Special thanks to Afghan Response Task Force members Sima Alizadeh, Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Emma Wells and Michael Turansick.