If you are a foreign national submitting an immigration-related petition or application 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 obligations and payments.
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 follow-up 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.
Fees are raised fairly regularly, but not on a schedule. For example, USCIS proposed adjustments to its fees in January of 2023, with a 60-day comment period. (The actual effective date has not yet been announced.)
The 2023 proposal includes significant increases. For example, people filing for adjustment of status (a green card while in the United States) will, if this rule gets finalized, have to pay separate fees for a work permit (employment authorization document or EAD on Form I-765) and travel document (Advance Parole on Form I-131) instead of having all these fees bundled with the I-485 fee.
And the N-400 citizenship fee is slated to go up to $760 (including biometrics) for the average applicant, and to $380 for low-income applicants who qualify for a fee reduction.
In any case, you will need to make sure you pay the latest fee amount when filing your application. To find out how much you need to pay, visit the Forms page of the USCIS website or call its contact center 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 might, for example, have to add different amounts—such as a basic fee to file the form, and a "biometrics" fee for fingerprinting. Or you might 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.
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 application fees later go up.
Do not send cash! The method by which you are expected to pay the application fees depends in part on what form you're filing and where it's going.
In most cases, you can choose between paying by either credit card (using USCIS Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions) or by personal check or money order made out to the Department of Homeland Security. (They do 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 check memo line.
To make sure USCIS sees your check, paperclip or staple it to the upper left-hand corner of your main application form.
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.
It is possible in some cases to apply for a "fee waiver" from USCIS. However, read the instructions carefully.
You will definitely not be allowed to apply for a fee waiver if 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 information on filing a fee waiver. There is, for example, a fee waiver to applicants for naturalized U.S. citizenship.
Still, you should request a waiver only as a last resort. Submitting a fee waiver 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 could convince USCIS that you actually show every sign of becoming a public charge.