The process of applying for any sort of visa, green card, or other immigration benefit inevitably involves filling out and submitting numerous government forms. Such forms are typically issued by either the U.S. State Department or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Below, we discuss the most commonly used USCIS forms.
Although there is no fee to download or obtain a copy of these forms, most forms require that you pay a filing fee at the time you submit them. These fees are one of the major ways that the government brings in revenue to provide immigration services. The fees tend to be raised every year or two.
In some cases, a fee waiver can be requested to help ease the cost of filing the forms. For more information on how to obtain this, see our article on fee waivers.
Note that the government gives numbers to all its forms, and then tends to refer to them by those numbers (as do the lawyers who handle immigration cases). For example, the Petition for Alien Relative is numbered I-130, and you might therefore hear descriptions of how, to help a foreign-born relative immigrate, the U.S. citizen must first "file an I-130."
Common Forms and Fees
Here are some of the forms that an immigrant (or U.S. petitioner) is most likely to encounter in the process, and their fees as of 2016.
- N-400 - Application for Naturalization: $595. This form is for lawful permanent residents who are ready and eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
- I-129 - Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker: $325. This form is used by employers to petition USCIS for approval to hire a temporary, foreign-born worker.
- I-129F-Petition for Alien Fiancé(e): $340. This allows a U.S. citizen to petition (begin the visa-application process) for a foreign-born person, ultimately allowing that person to come to the U.S. for the purpose of getting married and, if desired, applying for a U.S. green card (adjustment of status) afterward.
- I-130 - Petition for an Alien Relative: $420. This allows a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to begin the immigration process for a relative from another country.
- I-765 - Application for Employment Authorization: $380. This allows certain aliens to apply to work legally in the United States, depending on their visa or other status.
- I-485 - Application for Permanent Resident Status: $635-985. This is one of the most widely used immigration forms. It allows people in the United States (in most cases, with a current visa or other valid immigration status) to apply for a green card without leaving the U.S., through a process known as adjustment of status.
- I-131 Application for Travel Document: $105-360. This serves a variety of purposes, for example allowing applicants for adjustment of status to get "advance parole" (the right to travel outside the U.S. while their application is pending without USCIS considering their application as having been abandoned); refugees and asylees to obtain a travel document for trips outside the U.S.; and lawful permanent residents wishing a reentry permit to return after a long stay outside the United States.
- I-140 - Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker: $580. Used by employers who are sponsoring a foreign-born person for a green card based on a job offer.
- For any applications that require fingerprinting or other biometrics services, an additional fee: $85.
Forms Aren't Everything!
As important as the forms are, they are, in most cases, the smallest part of the packet of what you'll need to send in with your immigration application. Read the instructions that come with each form carefully. They will tell you about other things that you need to submit, such as birth and marriage certificates, financial documents, immigration-related documents, photos, medical exam reports, and more.
For more detailed information on filling out and submitting these various forms, see Immigration Applications, Petitions, & Processes.