If you are an immigrant or a foreign national who seeks to get a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence), there are many costs involved. These include application fees paid directly to U.S. immigration authorities (the U.S. State Department (DOS) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, known as USCIS), and related fees; for example to get photos done, to pay for the required medical exam, and other incidentals such as photocopying and mailing.
The exact fees depend on what type of green card you're applying for (family-based, employment-based, or some other type) and on whether you're applying within the United States, using a process called Adjustment of Status, or applying from overseas, using a process called Consular Processing.
We'll try to give a more complete picture of the amounts involved here.
Important caution: When we discuss government application fees, we're referring to those paid to U.S. immigration authorities at the time you file a petition or application. You should never pay a fee to simply obtain copies of immigration forms, which are free online at the USCIS website, www.uscis.gov. Don't be taken in by websites that attempt to sell you immigration forms.
One fee obligation faced by immigrants in most every green card category is for the first first form that needs to be filed by a person or employer in the U.S., called a petition. Its purpose is to establish the would-be immigrant's basic eligibility, for example a family relationship or an offer of employment.
The petition is ordinarily done on Form I-130 in family-based cases (but Form I-360 if you're filing a self-petition, for example as a special immigrant or as a VAWA applicant in a situation where the would-be U.S. petitioner is abusive), Form I-129F in fiancé cases, Form I-140 in employment-based cases, and other forms in various less common types of cases.
In early 2023, for example, the application fee for an I-130 was $535, the fee for an I-360 was $435 but with exemptions in many categories, including VAWA applicants, the fee for an I-129F was $535, and the fee for an I-140 was $700. Investor visa applicants were required to pay a record-breaking $3,675 to file their I-526 petition.
At the other end of the spectrum, asylum applicants pay no fee to file an I-589.
By the way, USCIS raises its fees fairly regularly, and had proposed to do so later in 2023, so to find the latest for the various immigration forms, go to www.uscis.gov/forms.
If it's any comfort, the visa petition is in most cases submitted not by the immigrant, but by the U.S. petitioner. So, technically speaking, that person or employer will pay the fee, not the immigrant. But the petition is just the beginning of the process.
As mentioned, the application fee amounts after the initial petition is approved depend on various factors, most notably whether you're adjusting status or going through consular processing.
The primary form for adjusting status is USCIS Form I-485, the fee for which is $1,140 in early 2023 (minus $85 for people who don't need biometrics, that is, fingerprinting, and with downward adjustments for children filing with their parents). In general, adjusting status tends to be more expensive than consular processing.
If you're consular processing, the best way to figure out the fees is on the State Department website Fees for Visa Services page. Scroll down to the section on "Immigrant Visa Processing Fees." Family visa processing, for example, is $325 in 2023, while the fee for employment-based visas is $345.
The various fees to obtain materials or perform tasks to support your application can add up, too. These are likely to include around $20 to have professional, passport-style photographs taken of the immigrant and in some cases, the U.S. petitioner; around $35 for mailing and courier services; around $200 for the required medical exam, plus additional amounts if you need to have vaccinations done.
And if you need to have documents translated into English by a professional, expect to pay $200 or more. (It is possible to have translations done by a non-professional, such as a friend or family member, but make sure that person is truly qualified.)
Don't forget to add in potentially hundreds of dollars in travel expenses, particularly if you live far away from the U.S. consulate or USCIS office where you'll need to attend your visa or green card interview. (These are usually in major cities in the United States and abroad.)
You might wish to have a lawyer assist you with completing all of the paperwork and helping you make decisions, for example between adjusting status and consular processing. (That assumes you have a choice; however, many people have no option other than consular processing.)
The lawyer, too, will charge a fee, most often a flat fee of several thousand dollars, though some charge on an hourly basis. It's often money well spent, give that the stakes are high and you could waste a lot of your own time dealing with a difficult government bureaucracy. See Is an Immigration Lawyer Worth the Cost?.