New Immigration Filing Fees, Fee Waivers
August 10, 2007
As you may be aware, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new fee schedule which went into effect July 30, 2007. The fee increases are significant, to say the least, with some application costs increasing by 300 percent. There is no doubt that this change will cause hardship to many foreign nationals applying for immigration benefits in the United States, such as U.S. citizenship or permanent residence. In light of this, it is important to know that for some applications, USCIS offers applicants an opportunity to be considered for a fee waiver if they are unable to pay the required fees. USCIS has recently issued a n updated memorandum to its field office and service center employees regarding guidelines for fee waiver determinations. These guidelines designate which petitions can be filed with a request for a fee waiver and which petitions are fee exempt.
For example fee waivers can be considered for I-485, applications to adjust status to permanent resident, but only when filed by particular types of applicants, such as asylees, approved self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act, and victims of human trafficking. Fee waiver applications can also be filed for employment authorization documents, petitions to remove conditional residence, citizenship applications, and applications to replace permanent resident cards. A request for a fee waiver must be accompanied by an affidavit explaining why the applicant is unable to pay the fee. It is also advisable for such applicants to include supporting documentation substantiating their claim of indigence. Immigration authorities will consider age, disability, household income and other factors when determining fee waiver grants. It is very important that applicants seeking a fee waiver not include payment with their fee waiver request, with the hope that the fee be returned if the waiver is granted. If USCIS receives an application that includes the fee, they will essentially ignore the fee waiver request and cash the check.
Some petitions are completely fee exempt under certain conditions, such as Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when the card issued is incorrect due to a USCIS error or when the immigrant does not receive their card due to a USCIS error. Also, if a child under 14 is renewing their permanent resident card no fee is required. In all other circumstances, an applicant can file a request for a fee waiver when filing and I-90.
Other petitions which are always exempt from fee payment are applications for asylum and asylee relative petitions. Self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) are not required to pay a filing fee. Applications for citizenship when filed by active members of the military require no filing fee.
A complete list of which applications are fee exempt and which allow a request for fee waiver can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/files/pressrelease/FeeWaiver072007.pdf.
PUBLISHED August 10, 2007 – “IMMIGRATION LAW FORUM”
Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois