Fee Waiver Template Comment Instructions

Last Updated

November 21, 2018

CLINIC has developed guidance to help you draft a public comment in response to the administration’s proposal to eliminate the receipt of a means-tested benefit from the eligibility criteria for USCIS fee waivers. 

Why submit a public comment? When the government proposes a new rule or regulation, the Administrative Procedures Act (or APA) requires them to give the public an opportunity to read the rule and submit comments. Detailed information about the Federal Rulemaking Process is available hereGenerally, comments submitted will be public record and available for anyone to read. After the comment period closes, the government agency that proposed the rule is supposed to read all of the comments submitted and consider them when drafting the final version of the rule. Additionally, comments that raise significant legal deficiencies, funding or cost concerns, or highlight unintended consequences may require the agency to complete additional analysis. In those cases, the agency may be required to amend the rule or even abandon the initiative.

How do I submit a comment? Submit comments online at regulations.gov, by mail, or by any other means provided in the Federal Register instructions. Submitting a comment via the online portal is simple. To do so, click on “comment now” and either enter your comment in the text box (must be fewer than 5,000 characters) or upload your comments as a PDF. There are also step-by-step commenting instructions available here. Below you will find important tips to keep in mind while you draft your comment. Please click here to go directly to the proposed rule.

Write comments in your own words. The model comment will help guide you and give you an example and ideas, but the comment should be mostly your original words. Feel free to delete whole sections or paragraphs and replace them with your organization’s perspective on the issue. 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency proposing this rule, is supposed to read and consider every comment submitted, unless they are largely duplicative of another comment. If everyone used the template without changing it, USCIS may consider all submissions that look similar as just one comment. Therefore, you should modify it to reflect your organization’s particular positions and priorities to ensure that USCIS considers it a unique comment.  

It may be helpful, prior to drafting your comment, to do some research on your own organization, the demographics of the people it serves, and the local community. Consider what aspects of the rule will be particularly troublesome and gather some numbers and statistics that you can use to demonstrate how many people will be affected, how and to what extent, and at what financial cost. You may also wish to include client testimony, a personal story or hypothetical that would exemplify how the proposal would cause harm. When using a person’s story, we recommend using a pseudonym and avoid using any specific information that would reveal the person’s actual identity. 

Comment tips and reminders:

Submit your own individual comments. We understand that there are several sign-on comment opportunities to oppose this proposal. We strongly encourage your organization to submit your own comments in addition to any group sign-on letters. USCIS will have to count how many comments they receive. If five organizations sign onto one group comment letter, that counts as one comment. If agencies each send in their own unique comments that counts as five separate comments.  

State the reasons for your opposition and provide a rationale. We recommend using headings for each reason. Key reasons for opposition include the disproportionate impact this would have on naturalization applicants, the burdens this rule would place on the government (USCIS, IRS, state and local governments), legal and social services agencies, and applicants. 

Carefully consider offering any corrective language. Our ultimate goal is to stop this rule from moving forward. To do so it is important to focus your comment on concerns and reasons the proposal should be completely withdrawn rather than suggesting ways USCIS may “fix” the proposed rule. 

Attach research and supporting documents. If you cite to statistics or supporting documents in your comments, we recommend including them as an attachment so that they are clearly part of the administrative record. Another option is to include a live link to cited sources. If you include links, specifically request that the agency read the material at these links. 

If you have experience in an issue area, say so. If you are a subject matter expert and want to offer comments on your area of expertise, explain why you are uniquely qualified to offer this perspective. Feel free to explain your educational and professional background, or attach a copy of your resume or CV to your comments. 

Provide translations of non-English content. The proposed rule requests that all comments be submitted in English. We recommend that any content in another language be submitted both in the original language and translated to English, along with a signed statement from the translator that verifies the accuracy of the translation. Something like: I, [translator's name], hereby declare that I am fluent in [language] and English and that this translation is a true, accurate and complete version of the original text to the best of my knowledge.

Provide contact information for a representative of the organization. An authorized representative should sign organizational comments, and provide the business contact information of the representative for any follow-up questions or concerns. However, keep in mind that this comment will be publicly available, so we do not recommend personal addresses or cell phone numbers.

When you submit your comments, please also share them with CLINIC. After you hit send on your comment, please take a minute to let CLINIC know that you commented by emailing us at advocacy@cliniclegal.org. CLINIC will review comments submitted by affiliates and will extract the most helpful data, stories, arguments, and other messages that will help with our advocacy work in our continued fight against this restrictive regulation and others like it.

Click below for a model comment prepared by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.