Guide to Green Card Renewal Fee Waivers

Posted by Frank Gogol

Green cards are valid for 10 years, after which you need to apply for renewal. The green card renewal application requires you to pay filing and biometric fees. But the USCIS allows you to request a fee waiver if you’re unable to pay. In this article, we’ll explain how to apply for a green card renewal fee waiver.

Green Card Fees

Most immigration-related processes come with service or processing fees, which go to the agency offering the service. In the case of the green card application, it’s provided by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. A green card serves as proof that you’re authorized to live and work in the States permanently. The next step is often naturalization, after which you become an American citizen.

But until that time, you need to maintain your green card. The green card comes with a 10-year or 2-year validity. In the latter case, it’s a conditional green card, and you’re a conditional resident. If you have a 10-year green, you must renew it at least six months before it expires.

To renew, you need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. This form is used to both renew and replace a green card.

The green card filing fee is $540. $455 is the Form I-90 filing fee, and $85 is biometrics fees. All green card renewal applicants must pay the fees, except in certain situations. Those are:

  • You didn’t receive your green card from the USCIS.
  • You were issued a green card, but it has incorrect information.
  • Your green card will expire by your 16th birthday, and you’re currently 14 years old or above.

For each of these cases, you need to submit additional documents, as mentioned in Form I-90, to have your fees waived. Otherwise, you have to pay the $540 in fees, either by check or money order, to have your green card renewed.

Can Green Card Fees Be Reduced?

Besides applying for a fee waiver, you can apply for a fee reduction, but only if you’re applying for naturalization and not green card renewal. You cannot request reduced fees if you’re filing for green card renewal.

To qualify for a fee reduction, your annual household income must be between 150% and 200% of the Federal Poverty guidelines. Your household in the United States can be one or more members.

For the 48 contiguous states in the United States and the District of Columbia, 150% of Poverty Guidelines is $19,410 for one household member. Similarly, 200% of poverty guidelines is $25,520. For more than one member, the numbers are different. These figures keep change every year, so you need to cross-check with the current year’s Federal Poverty Guidelines.

The bottom line is if your annual income is between 150% and 200% of poverty guidelines laid by the federal government, then you can apply for green card fees reduction.

To reduce the fees, you must file Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fees, along with Form N-400.

Can Green Card Fees Be Waived?

Yes, green card fees can be waived if you meet the eligibility requirements. Since the total costs run upwards of $500, the USCIS acknowledges that not everyone would be able to pay the fees. Therefore, it provides forms by which you can request for a full fee waiver.

To be eligible for this, your annual household income must be below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. When calculating the household income, take the following things into account:

  • Total household size, i.e., all those living in the U.S. who depend on you and are listed on your federal income tax return
  • The recognized income of all individuals

For residents of the 48 contiguous states, the 150% Poverty Guideline is $19,410 for a single-member household. So your annual income must be less than $19,410 in your federal income tax return.

Another scenario where you can request a fee waiver is when you’re going through financial hardship at the time of filing. This can be either unemployment or suffering from natural calamities or medical expenses.  You must be able to demonstrate that to the USCIS.

How to Get Green Card Fees Waived

To request a fee waiver when applying for green card renewals, you’re required to file an additional form. This is Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. This is used to claim a fee waiver for every eligible application offered by the USCIS, like I-129, I-191, I-290B, I-485, and I-539.

Instructions to File Form I-912

Form I-912 is an 11-page document, divided into 11 parts. Those are:

  1. The basis for your request
  2. Information about you (Requestor)
  3. Applications and Petitions for Which You Are Requesting a Fee Waiver
  4. Means-Tested Benefits
  5. Income at or Below 150 Percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  6. Financial Hardship
  7. Requestor’s Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
  8. Family Member’s Statement, Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
  9. Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature
  10. Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Request, if Other Than the Requestor
  11. Additional Information

All the parts are self-explanatory and accompanied by instructions. You should read them carefully before filling in the boxes. Also, try to use the same ink color and writing style throughout the form. You need to provide documents showcasing that you or your family members receive means-tested benefits like Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI. If your income is 150% of Federal Poverty Guidelines, submit the federal tax return. In the case of financial hardship, you can submit receipts.

You’re not required to file a separate I-912 form for all of your family members if they, too, are renewing their green cards. You should file a single I-912 for all of your family members, and the fees will be waived.

Additionally, if you’re requesting a fee waiver, you must send the I-90 by mail. You’re not allowed to file online.

Common Reasons a Fee Waiver Is Denied

After you’ve submitted Form I-912 requesting a fee waiver, it’s at the discretion of the USCIS to accept or deny the request. In most cases, a request is approved if you can demonstrate that you’re either unable to pay or face financial hardship. But a request may be denied if:

  • You’ve submitted an incomplete form or haven’t signed at all the required places.
  • Not all the applicants, including those below the age of 14, signed the form.
  • You didn’t provide enough evidence to support the claim that you’re receiving a means-tested benefit, your income is below 150%, or you’re facing financial hardship.
  • You completed the form in a language other than English and didn’t submit a certified English copy of it. 

If you do not understand why you were denied the fee waiver, you can contact the USCIS office.

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Conclusion

DHS announced new rules adjusting the fees for many immigration application processes. The new fee system will go into effect on October 2, 2020. Therefore, you should use the updated edition of Form I-912. If you have additional questions, consult an experienced immigration attorney.

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