Naturalization is the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen for those who are not born in the U.S. or who did not derive U.S. Citizenship through their parents. Generally, in order to be eligible to naturalize one must be a lawful permanent resident, over the age of 18, have had their lawful permanent resident status for 5 or more years (3yrs if married to a U.S. Citizen for 3 years) and be of good moral character. The process includes, filing an application, showing up to give your biometrics (fingerprints) and an interview. At the interview there will be an English test and a civics test. None of this will happen however, if you cannot pay the$680 fee or obtain a fee waiver. USCIS understands that not everyone can afford to pay the immigration fees and have provided a way for some to obtain a waiver of the fee. If your fee is “waived” your application will be accepted without payment.
In the past, there were no official forms to obtain a fee waiver, however one could request a fee waiver in writing if they provided enough information. Now, USCIS has provided an official form. I-912 Request for a Fee Waiver provides a simple way to show the U.S. government that you cannot afford the $680 dollar naturalization fee. In order to be eligible for the fee waiver an applicant or relevant family member must receive a means-tested government benefit or have a financial hardship or have an income of less than 150% of the poverty guidelines for their household size. The poverty guideline for 2012 can be found on my website. You may be eligible for the fee waiver if you meet one, two or all three of those options.
If you are receiving some sort of government means-tested welfare, contact your state agency to provide you with a letter stating so and you may include that as evidence. If you are receiving a means-tested benefit and you have provided sufficient evidence with your fee waiver request, your fee waiver will normally be approved and no further information is required.
If your household income at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines you will likely be eligible for the waiver but you must prove it by providing a copy of your tax return, pay stubs or other proof of income.
If you are having a financial hardship, there is a space on the form to document the reasons and to list how much money you bring in and how much is spent on rent, food and utilities and other general expenses. You can document your household income and expenses by providing a copy of your tax return or by including copies of bills and pay stubs.
You will need to send the I-912 Request for Fee Waiver with your N-400 Naturalization application and also write Fee Waiver Request on top of your N-400 so that they know not to expect a check.
If you have any arrest or conviction or evidence of bad moral character, you should not apply for U.S. Citizenship without first speaking to an immigration attorney.
Please note, the I-912 Request for Fee Waiver form can be used to request waivers the fees of other applications as well such as the I-90 Greencard Renewal and I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status for Asylees.
If you have already applied for U.S. Citizenship, its time to study for the test! Click here to read the test questions and answers. For reasons why you should apply for U.S. Citizenship, read my previous blog post.