The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have made it harder for US visa applicants to get a visa fee waiver by updating the rules, last week.
The USCIS has decided to remove the means-tested benefit criteria, which was previously used as a determining tool whether an individual was eligible to be exempt from paying the visa fee or biometric services fee when applying for a US visa
The USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli explains that the decision has been taken in a bid to improve the integrity of the program and the quality and consistency of fee waiver approvals. According to him, the USCIS itself relies on fees to cover the costs of adjudicating applications and petitions, implementing operational efforts, and ensuring the nation’s lawful immigration system is administered properly.
“The revised fee waiver process will improve the integrity of the program and the quality and consistency of fee waiver approvals going forward. Providing clear direction to agency adjudicators for more uniform determinations will help us to uphold our mission of efficiently and fairly adjudicating immigration requests,” Acting Director Cuccinelli further, adding that USCIS waives hundreds of millions of dollars in fees annually.
According to a press release by the USCIS, the annual dollar amount of fee waivers increased from around $344.3 million in the fiscal year 2016 to $367.9 million in FY 2017.
“In FY 2018, the estimated annual dollar amount of fee waivers USCIS granted was $293.5 million. Fee revenues account for more than 95% of the USCIS budget,” the press release reads.
Due to such expenses, the agency has decided that the means-tested benefit – a public benefit offered by federal, state or local agencies for which eligibility and amount considerate are based on a person’s income and resources – is not an appropriate criteria in reviewing fee-waiver requests, as income levels used to decide local assistance eligibility vary from state to state.
However, applicants may still be eligible and request a fee waiver if they can prove that their yearly household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or they can provide evidence of financial hardship to pay these fees.
Until December 2, US visa applicants seeking a fee waiver will be able to submit the current Form I-912. However, after this date, the USCIS will reject any form with an edition date of 03/13/18 or earlier, a fee waiver request submitted with a letter, or documentation of receipt of means-tested benefit to show eligibility for a fee waiver.