If you got an “immigrant visa” to come to the U.S. as a permanent resident, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will most likely make you pay an “immigrant fee” in order to get your permanent resident card (“green card”). There’s only one way to pay this fee: online through USCIS’s Electronic Immigration System (ELIS).
You can pay the immigrant fee yourself, or anyone can pay your fee for you. So, if you don’t have easy access to a computer, or you don’t have a credit card or U.S. bank account, you can arrange for a family member, friend, lawyer, or employer to pay on your behalf.
USCIS must receive the immigrant fee from you before it will send you your green card. To avoid any delay in receiving your green card, it’s best to pay the fee as soon as you get your immigrant visa packet from the consulate or embassy, before you leave for the United States.
If you wait to pay the fee until you arrive in the U.S., USCIS will send you a notice and request for payment. You won’t get your green card until you pay.
The card is your best proof of U.S. permanent residence, so the sooner you get it, the better. The temporary proof of permanent residence you receive when you first arrive in the U.S. expires after one year.
The USCIS immigrant fee is $220 (2018 figure). USCIS fees change from time to time, so verify the fee amount at the USCIS Our Fees page.
You can pay the fee with a credit card or debit card number (ELIS calls these “plastic cards,” and only accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover), or numbers from a U.S. bank account. You can also pay with a prepaid card (like a Visa gift card), but make sure it has enough money available. You can’t split the payment between cards.
The first thing to know is that USCIS's online system only works with certain Web browsers: Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox. (Sorry, Safari and Opera users.) For those of you running Windows 10, you can expect that it eventually will be compatible with Microsoft Edge as well.
When you’ve got one of the required Web browsers open, go to https://public-prod-elis2.uscis.dhs.gov/efile/app/app/iv/#!/ and look for the press "Continue." Fill in the requested information and the system will take you through the rest.
You will be asked to enter your alien registration number (“A-number”) and Department of State case identification number. This information was given to you after your interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy—you can find it several different places.
It’s on the immigrant data summary sheet that was stapled to the front of your immigrant visa package, on the USCIS Immigrant Fee instruction paper that was given to you by the visa officer, and on the immigrant visa stamp in your passport. If someone else is paying the fee for you, you’ll need to give him or her this information.
Your A-number is the letter “A” followed by eight or nine numbers. If it’s only eight numbers, add a zero after the A to make it nine numbers before entering it.
Your “DOS Case ID” is three letters followed by nine or ten numbers. (If you’re looking at your visa to check your case identification number, leave off the last two numbers you see under “IV Case Number.”) If you got your visa through the diversity lottery, your DOS Case ID will have four numbers followed by two letters and five more numbers.
Once you’ve entered the A-number and Case ID number, click the “Add” button. You can pay for other people too, by adding their A-number/Case ID and clicking “Add.”
Each time you click “Add,” you’ll see a line added to the Immigrant Payee Table underneath.
USCIS's online system gives you the opportunity to review everything at this point, before you proceed to payment. If everything looks good and you’re ready to pay, click the “Proceed to pay.gov” button. Pay.gov is a U.S. Treasury Department payment processing website.
On the first page you come to on pay.gov, you’ll see “Step 1: Enter Payment Information.” The first option is “Pay Via Bank Account (ACH).” If you want to pay by having money taken from your bank account (it must be a U.S.-based account), enter your information in the boxes and then click the “Continue with ACH Payment” button.
If you want to pay by credit or debit card (including a prepaid card), enter your information where it says “Pay Via Plastic Card (PC).” Then click the “Continue with Plastic Card Payment.”
At this point, you’ll reach “Step 2: Authorize Payment.” You’ll see a payment summary, and a place to enter email addresses to receive confirmation of payment. Under that, check the box authorizing payment, and then click the “Submit Payment” button. Make sure you click that button once and only once—don’t worry if nothing seems to be happening right away.
When payment goes through, you’ll be brought to a confirmation page, which you can print.
Your green card will be mailed to the U.S. address you gave when you applied for your visa. If that address has changed, make sure you tell USCIS.