This practice alert provides a brief overview of some of the main changes practitioners can expect with the proposed change to fee waiver eligibility and process, most significantly by eliminating receipt of means-tested benefits as a basis for requesting a fee waiver. Given that these significant changes to the fee waiver process will make it more difficult and time-intensive to establish inability to pay an immigration filing fee, we urge practitioners to advise clients who are eligible for a fee waiver based on receipt of means-tested benefits to apply as soon as possible, before this option is eliminated.

UPDATE: On June 5, 2019, USCIS published a new, 30-day notice in the Federal Register, without yet responding to comments received in response to the previous, April 5, 2019 notice and instead adding to the minimal justifications they had previously provided for their plan to drastically change the fee waiver process. 

In elaborating on the reasons for this proposed change, the new notice makes clear that one of USCIS’ main motivations for this change is to recoup perceived “lost fees” from granting fee waiver requests, by making it more difficult for applicants to receive fee waivers in the future.  

The current comment period closes on July 5, 2019. The ILRC has prepared a template comment to assist organizations and individuals in providing comments during this latest comment period on the proposed fee waiver changes. Even if you sent comments during the other public comment periods, we encourage you to send a new comment to let USCIS know that you are still opposed to these proposed changes and that their attempts to bolster their inadequate justifications for this change are unacceptable and insufficient.

Note that USCIS is now saying it will provide a “transition period” before requiring use of the revised fee waiver form and process, therefore the ILRC expects that applicants may continue submitting fee waivers based on means-tested benefits through the summer. We will update this page with information as it becomes available.