Form I-485 is the primary form that an intending immigrant must submit to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services (USCIS) in order to apply for a green card within the United States, through a process called Adjustment of Status.
The cost of filing the I-485 form is high, more so if you use the help of an attorney. If you are adjusting your status and have a job offer, your employer will likely pick up all filing and attorney fees.
If you do not have an employer picking up the tab, be sure to interview several different attorneys before signing a contract with one. You can also fill out the paperwork without an attorney's help, but many people find that the process is so complicated, and the prospect of making a mistake and being denied so terrible, that paying an attorney is well worth it.
Filing fees for I-485 will vary based on your age and certain other factors. The fees are raised fairly regularly, so to get the latest fees, go to the Form I-485 page of the USCIS website.
As of 2016, the fee for most applicants was $1,070, which includes the biometrics fee as well as your applications for a work permit (on Form I-765) and, in case you need to travel outside the U.S. before your application is approved, Advance Parole (on Form I-131).
If you are 79 years of age or older, the filing fee is $985 (no biometric fee). Applicants under age 14 and filing with at least one parent pay a fee of $635. An applicant under 14 years of age filing without a parent pays a fee of $985.
If you are applying based on having been admitted as a refugee to the U.S., there is no fee for filing Form I-485.
Many attorneys charge a flat fee for immigration matters like preparing an I-485 form. An average flat fee for the entire I-485 process would be anywhere from $600 to $1,200. A flat fee can be a good deal for you, especially if you have a complicated case with a lot of documentation. If you pay a flat fee, the attorney will likely do everything you need from completing the application to assembling documents, drafting affidavits, preparing you for your interview, and even attending the interview.
Paying an hourly rate is also an option, and allows you to pay for only as much of the lawyer's time as you need. That becomes an even better deal if you complete the application on your own and ask the attorney to simply review it (though not all attorneys will agree to this, since they may end up spending so much time fixing errors that they would have been better off starting from scratch). But paying at an hourly rate is also less predictable, and the hours might actually add up to more than you would have paid at a flat rate.
Attorneys charge different rates in different parts of the country, so it's best to contact several attorneys in your area and ask for their fees so you can compare before you hire someone.
The initial consultation with an immigration attorney is likely to be around $100, though in some cases it is free. It is important to trust your instincts when interviewing attorneys and go with the attorney with whom you feel the most comfortable.
If you're thinking about hiring an attorney but are not sure if you need one, see our article, Do I Need a Lawyer to Get a Green Card?