Overview of Form I-942, Request for a Reduced Fee

 

Introduction: Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee

Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee On December 23, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) introduced the Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee. The current version's edition date is December 23, 2016. The Form I-942 will allow qualifying applicants for naturalization to seek a reduced filing fee. We discussed the creation of the Form I-942 in our article on the new USCIS fee schedule that also took effect on December 23, 2016 [see article]. It is important to note that this is distinct from a request for a fee waiver. Please see our full article to learn about fee waivers [see article].

In this article, we will examine the eligibility and filing requirements for the Form I-942. In doing so, we will rely on the Form I-942 Instructions, which can be found here: [PDF version]. We will also rely upon the USCIS's new page on the Form I-942 and its requirements [link].

Purpose of the Form I-942

An application for naturalization is filed on the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. For many years prior to December 23, 2016, the filing fee had been $595. However, the USCIS increased the fee to $640. This new filing fee applies to any applications filed on or after December 23, 2016. The Form I-942 was created to allow qualifying applicants who may not be eligible for a fee waiver to instead pay a filing fee of only $320 . It is important to note that even of the Form I-942 is approved, the applicant will also have to pay the $85 biometrics fee in addition to the reduced fee.

Form I-942 Eligibility Requirements

A Form I-942 must be filed in conjunction with a Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The Form I-942 cannot be filed for any other fee reduction.

In order for a Form I-942 to be approvable, the applicant's household income must be greater than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, but not more than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing. The pertinent Federal Poverty Guidelines for the current year can be found in the Form I-942P, Income Guidelines for Reduced Fees. It is important for applicants to consult the version of the Form I-942P that is applicable at the time they file.

If a naturalization applicant's income is too low to qualify for the Form I-942 reduced fee, he or she may instead seek a fee waiver by filing the Form I-912 [see article]. If the applicant's income is greater than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines at the time of filing, he or she will not be eligible for a reduced filing fee.

Documenting Household Income

On the Form I-942, the applicant must document his or her household income to establish eligibility for the reduced fee. It is important for applicants to fill out all of the required fields on the Form I-912. In the following sections, we will summarize information from the Form I-942 instructions and from the USCIS website. However, applicants should carefully read the instructions when preparing the Form I-942 and, if possible, work with an experienced immigration attorney when preparing both the Form I-942 and the entire naturalization application packet.

Submitting Information About Applicant's Own Income

The Form I-942 instructions explain how to submit evidence of the applicant's own annual income. The following information must be provided:

  1. A copy of the applicant's most recent Federal tax return;
  2. If the applicant did not file a Federal tax return, or if the Federal tax return does not properly reflect the applicant's current income, the applicant must submit copies of consecutive pay statements for a minimum of the past month, recent Form W-2, Form SSA-1099, or statements from employer(s) on business stationary showing salary or wages paid;
  3. If the applicant is a student living with his or her parents or is not claimed as a depending on his or her parents' Federal tax return, he or she should not include the parents' incomes. The applicant in this case should only provide proof of income or documentation to show that the applicant is not required to file a Federal or state tax return (e.g., proof that the applicant is a full-time student as supporting documentation).

Persons Counted in “Household”

The USCIS website explains that an applicant must count the following individuals as part of his or her “household”:

  • The applicant;
  • The head of household (if not the applicant);
  • Spouse (if living with the applicant only);
  • Children or legal wards, who are unmarried and under 21 years of age;
  • Children or legal wards, who are unmarried and are at least 21 years of age but under 24 years of age, are full-time students, and live with the applicant when not at school;
  • Children or legal wards, who are unmarried and for whom the applicant is the legal guardian because they are physically or developmentally disabled or mentally impaired to the extent that they cannot adequately care for themselves and cannot establish, maintain, or reestablish their own household;
  • Parents; and
  • Any other dependents listed on the applicant's federal tax return, or on the applicant's spouse's or head of household's federal tax returns.

The applicant must count the annual income of his or her household members as part of the household income.

If the applicant's spouse lives overseas and provides support to the applicant's household, the applicant must include the spouse's contributions to the household in the “total additional income or financial support section.” If the spouse lives overseas and is unemployed and supported by the applicant, the applicant should include a statement explaining the situation.

If an individual lives with the applicant but does not meet the definition of a household member as described above, that individual's income should not be counted toward the household income (e.g., a different relative or a roommate). However, the applicant should count any financial contribution that he or she receives from such an individual if it was used to support the household. The USCIS website uses the example of an individual who contributes to the applicant's mortgage.

If the applicant receives child support, that must be counted toward household income. If the applicant receives less child support than the full amount listed in the court order, he or she should provide documentation to explain the discrepancy. The USCIS explains that such documentation may come in the form of bank statements, copies of checks, court documents, or other relevant documentation that would explain the discrepancy.

If the applicant is separated from his or her spouse and the spouse does not provide the applicant with any financial support, the spouse's income does not need to be included in the Form I-942. However, in this scenario, the applicant must submit a signed statement or documentation that establishes that the spouse does not live with him or her and does not provide income assistance. The USCIS explains that such documentation may come in the form of a court order that legalized the separation, a notarized property settlement agreement, a financial support agreement, or separate mortgage, lease, or utility bills that show that the applicant and his or her spouse live apart. However, even if the applicant is separated from his or her spouse, he or she must include any monthly support payments received from the spouse in his or her income.

If an individual filed a Form I-134, Affidavit of Support, or a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the Act, on behalf of the applicant, that individual may still be responsible for supporting the applicant (this would have most commonly occurred if the applicant became a permanent resident through family sponsorship). However, for the purpose of determining eligibility for a reduced fee for a naturalization application, the applicant's sponsor's income or assets will only be considered if the sponsor is a member of the applicant's household.

Documenting Household Members' Incomes

In order to document the income of a household member, the applicant must submit the following:

  1. A copy of each household member's most recent Federal tax return; or
  2. If the applicant did not file a Federal tax return, or if the Federal tax return does not properly reflect the applicant's current income, the applicant must submit copies of consecutive pay statements for a minimum of the past month, recent Form W-2, Form SSA-1099, or statements from employer(s) on business stationery showing salary or wages paid.

Properly Filing the Form I-942

The Form I-942 must be submitted in conjunction with a completed Form N-400. If the Form I-942 is submitted without the Form N-400, it will not be adjudicated. If the Form N-400 is submitted without the Form I-942, the applicant cannot subsequently file the Form I-942.

There is no filing fee for the Form I-942 itself. However, the Form I-942 must be submitted with the $320 reduced fee and the $85 biometrics fee for the Form N-400.

There is no online version of the Form I-942. This means that if the applicant wants to request a reduced fee, he or she must file a paper Form N-400 along with the paper Form I-942.

It is crucial that the applicant sign the Form I-942. If the Form I-942 is filed for multiple members of the household, each member must sign. A legal guardian may sign for a mentally incompetent person. If the Form I-942 is not signed, the USCIS will reject it and return it to the applicant for corrections.

If the applicant is submitting any supporting documents that are in a foreign language, the applicant must include a full English translation along with a signed certification from the translator.

Common Reasons Why the Form I-942 May Be Denied

The USCIS lists several common reasons why it may deny a Form I-942. The listed reasons are as follows:

  • The form for which the Form I-942 was filed is not eligible for a reduced fee;
  • The Form I-942 was not signed by the applicant;
  • The form I-942 was not signed by all of the members of the same household filing their Forms N-400 in the same package;
  • The applicant did not provide enough evidence to establish that his or her household income qualified; and/or
  • The applicant submitted evidence that was not in English and without a certified English translation.

If the reduced fee request is denied, the reason should be stated on the Form I-797, Notice of Action. The applicant may contact the USCIS if he or she remains unsure about the reasons for denial.

Conclusion: Form I-942, Request for Reduced Fee

The Form I-942 allows certain applicants for naturalization who would not be eligible for a fee waiver to apply for a reduced fee. In light of the recent fee increase for the Form N-400, this will be welcome news to many applicants for naturalization.

In general, an individual seeking naturalization should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for guidance through the entire process. In addition to assisting in the main naturalization application, an immigration attorney will be able to assess whether the applicant may be eligible for a reduced fee or a fee waiver based on his or her household income. Please see our website's full section on Citizenship and Naturalization to learn more [see category].

Finally, it is important to note that the applicant must be honest in his or her Form I-942 request. The Form I-942 is a request for an immigration benefit and is submitted under oath. If the applicant endeavors to procure a reduced fee through fraud or misrepresentation of a material fact, his or her entire application will be denied, and he or she may be found to be inadmissible.