United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver, removing the means-tested benefit criteria. The criteria was previously used as a factor in determining an applicant’s qualification for exemption from paying for filing fees or biometric services. Individuals are still permitted to request a fee waiver, but only if their documented annual income is below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if they are capable of adequately demonstrating financial hardship. The change means fewer people will qualify for fee waivers.

The means-tested benefit is a public benefit, provided by federal, state, or local agencies, the eligibility for which and the amount of relief received are determined by an individual’s income and resources. USCIS previously considered Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Supplemental Security income during eligibility evaluations.

Justifying the removal of the means-tested benefic criteria, USCIS stated that the criteria is ineffective in reviewing fee-waiver review requests because great variations exist in the income levels used to decide local assistance eligibility from state to state. USCIS also noted how reliant the agency is on fees, citing that more than 95% of the USCIS budget comes from fees.

Based on the revised criteria, individuals may still request a fee waiver if their documented annual household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or if they can demonstrate financial hardship. USCIS still requires applicants to fill out a Form I-912 and submit supporting documentation, including federal tax transcripts, and the agency will not accept a letter affirming the applicant’s inability to afford filing fees or biometric services without a completed Form I-912.

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