If you are thinking of applying for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence), you are probably wondering how much it will cost. The U.S. government charges fees at various steps along the way, and you'll need to pay for various other expenses, as well.
The first factor that will determine the costs you bear is the procedural method by which you'll be applying for a green card: either consular processing, in which you deal primarily with an overseas U.S. consulate in order to receive an immigrant visa in advance of your green card; or adjustment of status, in which you deal solely with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within the United States.
This article discusses the fees for consular processing.
(If you are physically within the U.S. and eligible for adjustment, as described in Who Can Apply for a Green Card Through Adjustment of Status, see instead How Much It Costs to Get a Green Card by Adjustment of Status.)
The category of green card that you apply for, and the applications that you need to file accordingly, determine the exact amounts that you will need to pay the U.S. government as the process goes forward.
Many type of green card applications start with a visa petition, prepared by a family member or employer (your "petitioner") and filed with USCIS. If your petitioner didn't ask you to pay the filing fee for this initial petition that's one less fee for you to worry about.
Although your family or employer will be the one to sign and submit the initial petition, there's nothing to stop them from asking you to pay or reimburse them for these fees. If you have to pay, how much USCIS will charge can be found on the Forms page of the agency's website. For example, family petitioners file Form I-130; self-petitioners under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and other special immigrant programs file Form I-360; fiancé visa petitioners file Form I-129F; and employers file Form I-140.
To see the filing fee, search the USCIS Forms page for the appropriate form number. Fees were supposed to change on October 2, 2020, going up in some cases and down in others; but subsequent lawsuits put the fee changes on hold.
Until the change goes through, the fees were (as of early 2021): $535 for an I-130; $435 for an I-360 (with exemptions for VAWA and many other applicants); $535 for an I-129F; and $700 for an I-140.
(USCIS's planned new fees are $560 for an I-130 if it's filed on paper and $550 if filed online; $450 for an I-360 (with exemptions for VAWA and many other applicants); $510 for an I-129F; and for an I-140, $555.)
If you will be applying for a green card through a job offer, your employer will have already had to pay various fees even before the I-140, to obtain what's known as labor certification. You, the intending immigrant, can't be asked to pay those. It's illegal for employers to make you pay for any part of the labor certification process (including attorney fees for that), so don't do it. You can't agree to reimburse your employer for labor certification costs later, either.
After the initial petition is approved, the next step is for your file to be transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). If you're applying for an "immigrant visa," the NVC will send you an immigrant visa application fee invoice, and, if you are required to submit an affidavit of support that will be processed in the U.S., a fee invoice for that too.
As of early 2021, the State Department's immigrant visa application fee was $325 for family-based applicants, $345 for employment-based applicants, $330 for diversity visa applicants, $265 for a fiancé (K-1) visa, and $205 for various other categories.
If you are successful in getting an immigrant visa, there is one last fee you have to pay. USCIS charges an "immigrant fee," to cover the expense of creating your green card. As of early 2021, that immigrant fee was $220, but could change if USCIS's fee structure adjustments go through. You have to pay the USCIS immigrant fee online. It's best to do this before leaving for the United States—otherwise it will take a lot longer to get your actual "green card" in the mail. See the USCIS Immigrant Fee page of the USCIS website for details on how to pay.
If you are applying for a green card as the fiancé of a U.S. citizen (or by using a K-3 visa for spouses of a U.S. citizen, though the K-3 visa is virtually obsolete), you don't pay the USCIS immigrant fee. Instead, you will need to apply for adjustment of status after you are in the United States. See How Much It Costs to Get a Green Card by Adjustment of Status for details.
You might want to hire an attorney to help with the analysis of your green card eligibility as well as the paperwork. If your case presents major complications, you could even hire the attorney to accompany you to the interview at the U.S. consulate, if attorneys are allowed at your consulate (though this will be expensive, given that you might have to fly an attorney from the U.S.). Many, but not all, immigrant visa cases require an interview at the U.S. consulate; and it's pretty much guaranteed in marriage-based green card applications.
Most attorneys will quote you a flat fee. The attorney may allow you to pay part of it at the beginning and the rest at the end. The amount of the fee depends on factors like:
It will no doubt be at least several hundred dollars or more likely a few thousand. Realize, however, that if anything unexpected comes up—for instance, you are arrested before the case is done, or reveal a pending divorce proceeding that the attorney hadn't factored into the case—the costs will go up, and at some point the lawyer may switch over to charging by the hour.
A variety of other costs will add to your expenses when applying for a U.S. green card. These include:
For more information on procedural matters to do with your green card application, see the Consular Processing Procedures section of Nolo's website.