Applying for Citizenship-Form I-912 Fee Waiver and Form I-942 Reduced Fee

Training link is here. (You should be signed in by now) The youtube link to the training video is here.

The USCIS website links are here:

  • I-912 – Fee Waiver (150% or below Fed. Poverty Guidelines)
    • Fee = zero, applies to N-400, N-600, I-90, I-765.
  • I-942 – Reduced Fee (Between 150% – 200% Fed Poverty Guidelines)
    • Fee currently ($320) + ($85) biometrics fee for N-400 ONLY. (Verify here.)
  • Income guidelines for reduced fees here.


  • Ask the applicant if they are concerned about the the application fees. If they are, show them the “Mean-tested” and Poverty Guidelines sheet. There will be one in your informational binder.
  • We fill out forms at the fair for two types of justifications (Part 1 – 1 & 2).
  • Part 1 – 3. should be referred to one of our experts!
  • If you don’t feel confident tackling this, NO WORRIES! If it appears that your applicant may have a case after looking at the guidelines sheet, send them, along with their worksheet and other forms over to an immigration specialist at the fair.

Video Slides/Annotated application form

(Some slides, which were too fuzzy to read, have been replaced with actual sections of the form, marked up by Vanessa. We’ve also added additional references discussed in the video.)

I-912 Fee Waiver

  • I-912 is not a mandatory form. An applicant can write a affidavit that addresses all the issues.
  • I-942 is a mandatory form for those applying for a reduced fee.
  • We check the dates on the forms.
  • The application for the fee waiver MUST be submitted at the same time as the N-400 application.
  • Currently, those applying for a fee waiver must apply with a PAPER version of the N-400 application. This will change in the future.
  • Note for volunteers: If, at any point, you are unsure of an applicant’s eligibility for a fee waiver or reduction, put up your hand for assistance from an immigration professional.
  • Fees increased tremendously since 1997, when they were $95 for the N-400 citizenship application, along with the $85 biometric fee.
  • In 1999, they jumped to $225. 2008 jump again $595 + $85= $680.
  • Currently, the N-400 fee is $640 + $85 = $725. (Verify here.)
  • Using 2012 data, nearly a third of applicants are at or below the 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.

I-942 Reduced Fee

  • Fee must be submitted with the application
  • The USCIS can reject the request.
    • Applicant can submit the form again with more documentation.
    • Applicant can resubmit the N-400 with the full fee, including the biometric.
  • An applicant should not submit both types of waiver requests.
    • If an applicant believes they might qualify for the full fee waiver, they should include that application.
    • If they are rejected, they can reapply with the application for the reduced fee.

Income guidelines

Current as of 5/29/21. Verify here.

Completing the form

  • Currently, those applying for a fee waiver must apply with a PAPER version of the N-400 application. This will change in the future.
  • ONLY the N-400 applicant applying for citizenship needs to fill out their contact information and sign the form.
  • The “Requestor” is the applicant.
  • There’s a form for a “Preparer’s” signature. (Our information for this is near the bottom of this form.)

Part 1 – Pick the best option(s) for your client.

  • An applicant only needs to pick ONE of the three options.
  • It’s OK to demonstrate eligibility under more than one ground, but in general, it’s best to pick the strongest option. Then you only need to fill out the part that relates to that part.
  1. The “Means Tested” waiver is the most straightforward way to qualify for a fee waiver.
  2. Demonstrate that the applicant income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  3. The applicant can prove financial hardship or special circumstances. This is the most challenging way to prove eligibility and the applicant should be referred to one of our coalition’s professional service providers.

Part 2 & 3 – General information for the applicant

Part 4 is for option #1.

  • This slide shows a variety of “Means Tested” programs, where the applicant’s income has already being considered to qualify for the the benefit.
  • Volunteers, if you aren’t sure about a program’s eligibility, raise your hand for assistance from one of the immigration professionals.
  • The goal of the last two columns is to prove that the applicant is CURRENTLY receiving the benefits.
  • If the benefit has NO EXPIRATION DATE, but was issued in the last 12 months, and the applicant tells you that he or she is still receiving it, that is considered a “current” benefit and you would make a note to that effect where the form asks for the expiration date.
  • On this slide, you can see the image of a “Notice of Action” (NOA) proof of eligibility for the CD waiver on the basis of receipt of a public benefit. The applicant needs a NOA or an official letter issued by the agency that administers the benefit.
  • The NOA needs to show that the naturalization applicant or his or her spouse is currently receiving the benefit.
  • A child who is applying for a certificate of citizenship using a different form (N600) can qualify for a fee waiver if that child or that child’s parents receives a means-tested public benefit.
  • For an adult N-400 applicant having a child who is eligible for a mean-tested benefit is NOT grounds for a fee waiver under parts 4, although it could be used to demonstrate low income under Part 5.
  • County agencies may issue NOA in the applicant’s language. However, the USCIS requires that the notice be provided in English, or that a full certified English translation is provided.
  • If ANY part is unclear for you, the volunteer, call over an immigration professional or tag the area with a post-it note.

Part 5 is for option #2

  • Income proven to be at or below 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • The form requires the applicant to list the household composition and the income that members of the household receive. There are checkboxes for the types of income received.
  • For the part’s purposes, we must list the “head of household” (HOH)- the person who earns the majority of the income in the household and the people dependent on the head of household’s income. The HOH may or may not be the N-400 applicant.
  • The applicant’s spouse’s income counts if the spouses are LIVING TOGETHER.
  • Dependents would include children who are under the age of 21 AND unmarried, as well as some older children who are full-time students.
  • Federal Poverty Guidelines are listed here. Qualifying income is the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) (IRS 1040 line 37).
  • Questions:
    • What if I pay alimony and child support? Can I deduct those costs? Yes for alimony, as it’s deducted from gross income. No for child support as it’s not income.
    • What if someone doesn’t file a tax return? The easiest way to prove income is to submit a copy of one’s tax return. If an individual doesn’t file a tax return but has a W-2 form, you can submit that, deducting federal, state and local income tax withheld. May require letters from employers on company letterhead or even affidavits can be used to demonstrate income.
    • What if an an applicant filed, but is now unemployed? The applicant would need documents that show the change in income, affidavits, letters…etc, that puts him/her below the Fed. Poverty guidelines limit.

Part 6 is for option #3

  • Financial Hardship: This is the most difficult way to show eligibility for the fee waiver. We volunteers will be leaving this more complicated process for the professionals. Introduce your applicant to the service provider working at the fair and let them make an appointment.
  • DISCRETIONARY: The hardship determination is discretionary by the USCIS, unlike the means-tested or income options.
  • FYI for an applicant if they ask. The USCIS will be looking at the applicant’s assets, looking for those that can be converted to cash without causing further hardship.
    • Homes, and cars are not on the table. Neither are retirement accounts or pensions.
    • Bank accounts and savings accounts would be expected to be liquidated to pay for the application fee.
  • Public charge is NOT a red flag. An worried applicant may ask about this. However, any benefit that the individual received legally has no effect on naturalization. On the contrary, it can help an applicant qualify for a fee waiver.
    • Public Charge is only an issue for immigrants who do not yet have their green card.
    • There is a very narrow public charge ground of deportability but IRLC has never seen it used. It involves failure to pay after a government agency demands repayment of a cash benefit in the first five years a person had their green card.
  • Red flag situation:
    • Fraudulent qualifications: Most individuals a pro bono attorney (and us volunteers) would be helping to get a I-912 fee waiver will have a means-tested benefit. It’s important that they are LEGALLY receiving the benefit – i.e. they didn’t provide fraudulent information to qualify.
    • Travel: If the person was receiving the benefit during lengthy travel. Most public benefits have time limits for foreign travel, usually 30 days. An applicant was supposed to report to the agency in charge of the benefit that they were out of the country and have the benefit suspended during that time.
    • 180-day trip: A LPR who was on a trip for more that 180 days – that person could be subject to the public charge ground of inadmissibility and need to consult an immigration attorney.

Finishing it off – Part 7 -11 is for everyone.