FAQs About Paying Immigration Filing Fees

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If you are submitting immigration-related petitions or applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you will probably need to pay a fee -- or even a combination of fees. Here are some commonly asked questions about fee payments.

Can I Get My Money Back If USCIS Denies the Application?

No, you can’t get your money back if your case is not approved. These are considered processing fees; you pay for the privilege of having your petition or application considered.

But there are situations where you might not have to pay a fee for a followup application -- for example, if USCIS spells your name wrong or makes another mistake in issuing your green card. In that case, you would not have to pay the fee to obtain a replacement card.

Where Do I Find the Latest Fee Amounts?

You will need to make sure you pay the latest fee amount when filing your application. If you rely on an amount you perhaps saw printed on a non-USCIS website and it turns out to be old, USCIS will send your application packet back to you for refiling. To find out how much you need to pay, visit the Forms page of the USCIS website, or call their information line at 800-375-5283.

On the website, scroll down to the appropriate form and click the link. The following page will have an entry called "Filing Fee." Read it carefully. You may, for example, have to add different amounts -- such as a basic fee to file the form, and a "biometrics" fee for fingerprinting. Or you may be asked to pay a lump fee even though you are filing different forms and will need biometrics, as is the case when filing Form I-485 for adjustment of status.

What If the Fee Changes After I Submit the Form?

As long as your application is accepted for processing -- that is, USCIS doesn't send it back to you because you forgot something -- you don't have to worry that the agency will ask you for extra money if the fees later go up.

By What Method Should I Pay the Fees?

Do not send cash! You must pay the fees by personal check or money order, made out to the Departmentof Homeland Security. (It does NOT like you to abbreviate this to DHS.) Write the form number (such as "I-485" for an adjustment of status, or "I-90" for a green card renewal) on the memo line.

To make sure USCIS sees your check, paperclip or staple it to the upper left-hand corner of your main application form.

In some situations, you can pay by credit card. This includes when you are paying fees at a USCIS field office (which is rarely allowed -- most applications must be submitted by mail) or for applications that can be e-filed, online.

Can I Send One Check for the Whole Family?

It's best not to. Although you can combine all the amounts owed for one person into a single check (for example, adding up the application fee and the biometrics fee) combining fees for the whole family when you are all applying together is risky. What if one person’s application is missing something (such as a copy of a birth certificate)? USCIS will send the entire package back to you if you have sent in only one check. That will delay the process for everyone. With separate checks, USCIS is more likely to start the process rolling for most of the family members and perhaps merely send a letter regarding the mistake or missing item.

What If I Can't Afford the Fee?

It is possible to apply for a "fee waiver" from USCIS, unless you are in a category of applicants that can be found inadmissible based on likelihood of becoming a "public charge" (requiring need-based public assistance or welfare). Assuming you're in another category, see for instructions the USCIS "Fee Waiver Guidance." But do so only as a last resort. Submitting this request can slow down your application's processing. And if you make a mistake and submit it despite being in a category of applicant that is subject to public-charge inadmissibility, the information you provide about your financial need may convince USCIS that you actually show every sign of becoming a public charge.

by: , J.D.

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