Applying for Citizenship: Do You Qualify for a USCIS Fee Waiver?

US citizenship and immigration services

When applying for citizenship, some people may qualify for a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) fee waiver. This can help significantly reduce the application filing price, which is normally $725.

As of December 2, 2019, a new policy is in effect that makes changes to the qualifications for an application fee waiver. Now, the fee only applies to individuals applying for citizenship, work permits, certain types of green cards, and various other benefits.

Requirements for the New Immigration Services Policy Change

With the new changes implemented, individuals will only be permitted to request a waiver if they are able to prove that their yearly household income is at or lower than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if they can prove that they’re experiencing financial difficulties with other documentation.

The two other alternatives are more of a challenge to prove when applying, with the need for applicants to provide plenty of documentation, oftentimes with the help of an immigration attorney. The biggest problem with these more stringent requirements is that USCIS would be required to spend even more time reviewing these documents, resulting in even more delays in immigration cases.

In addition to more documentation, filing fees may increase to the point of becoming unaffordable for many applicants, including low-income immigrants, families filing more than one application at once, and the elderly. The increasing limitations for fee waivers may also deter many from applying for benefits entirely, including citizenship.

The Trump Administration’s Changes to Legal Immigration

The new changes are the result of one of the many changes the Trump administration has implemented against legal immigration.

This change to the policy for fee waivers came soon after multiple federal courts struck down the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which would have enabled the government to more easily deny green cards to immigrations who seemed likely to receive specific types of public benefits in the future such as non-cash benefits, including food stamps and Medicaid. Many criticized the rule as something akin to a “wealth test” for immigrants who wished to live in the U.S.

Ultimately, the new policy makes it more difficult for people to navigate the immigration system, so it’s important for applicants to determine if they qualify for a USCIS fee waiver.