If you are thinking of applying for a green card (lawful permanent residence) within the U.S., through the process known as adjustment of status, you have probably already heard that it can be an expensive process. (The first thing to make sure of, however, is that you are even eligible to go this procedural route; the mere fact of being physically within the U.S. and eligible for permanent residence is not necessarily enough to make you adjustment-eligible, as described in “Who Can Apply for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status.”
Indeed, you are likely to face a number of expenses, including application fees, attorney fees, and other related fees, as described below.
Adjustment of Status Application Fees
How much U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will charge can be found on the Forms page of the USCIS website.
If you’ve already got an approved petition in hand (most likely based on your family member having filed an I-130 visa petition, your employer having filed an I-140 visa petition, or you having filed a self petition on Form I-360), you can skip that fee.
If not (for example, if you’re the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen who, because you’re immediately eligible for a green card, can file all the paperwork in one big package), you’ll need to first look up the fee for this basic petition (though the petitioner may be paying it on your behalf).
Next, look up the fee for Form I-485, the main form used to apply for adjustment of status. It varies depending on age and whether you’re a child filing with parents, and is not applied to anyone who entered the U.S. as a refugee. Don’t forget to add the biometrics fee if you’re under age 79.
Fortunately, unlike with many USCIS applications, you don’t need to tack on separate fees for every other form that goes into your package. The USCIS fee for Form I-485 covers your application for a work permit (employment authorization or an EAD) on Form I-765 and advance parole (the right to leave the U.S. while your application is in processing without it being canceled because you “abandoned” it) on Form I-131. It’s best to file all three of these together. Even if you don’t, however, you don’t have to pay these two fees so long as your I-485 application is still pending (awaiting a USCIS decision).
Although some types of applicants for immigration benefits can apply for a fee waiver if they can’t afford to pay, this is unlikely to apply to you in an adjustment of status case, as described in, “Can we get a fee waiver to apply for our green card (adjustment of status)?”
It’s a good idea to hire an attorney to help with the analysis of your green card eligibility as well as the paperwork. If your case presents any complications at all, you would also be wise to hire the attorney to accompany you to the interview at USCIS, too. (Many, but not all cases require an interview; and it’s pretty much guaranteed in marriage-based applications.)
Expect to pay the attorney somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000 in total – NOT including the application fees described above. Most attorneys will quote you a flat fee in advance, and ask you to pay part of it at the beginning and the rest at the end. Exactly where it falls on this range depends on factors like:
- how many people are applying together (more people obviously raises the price, though each additional person over the primary applicant may receive a discount)
- whether you will also ask the attorney to fill out the work permit and advance parole applications (the attorney may charge separately to fill them out)
- whether your case presents any particular complications such as a past criminal conviction that the attorney must analyze or help you prepare to deal with
- whether you need to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility (which can add a significant amount of time to what the attorney will spend on the application, and may be charged at an hourly rate—likely upwards of $150 per hour)
- whether the attorney charges separately for expenses such as phone calls, photocopying, mailing, and so on (as is common), and
- whether you’d like the attorney to accompany you to the USCIS interview.
Realize, however, that if anything unexpected comes up – for instance, an applicant is arrested before the case is done, or a spouse in a marriage-based case reveals a pending divorce proceeding that the attorney hadn’t factored into the case before – the costs will go up, in order to deal with this change.
A host of other fees will add to your expenses when applying for adjustment of status. These include:
- postage to mail your application(s) to USCIS
- medical exam fee (varies by doctor, between around $75 and $350 for the basic exam and filling out Form I-693, plus extra for any needed vaccinations); and you may have to pay this twice, if your interview doesn't take place within the one-year validity period of the exam results
- photos (around $10), and
- transportation and parking to the USCIS office for your interview (varies by region, but be sure to park in an actual lot rather than at a parking meter, or USCIS delays could result in you getting an expensive parking ticket!).