On December 23, 2016, the USCIS implemented a new fee schedule that made some drastic changes to both temporary non-immigrant as well as permanent immigrant visa categories. In this article, we will discuss what changes have been made family-based green card filing fees.
What Kinds of Family-Based Green Cards Are There?
If you are interested in getting a family-based green card or sponsoring someone for one, it helps to know which ones are available and which ones are appropriate for your situation. If you are bringing several family members over, you may find yourself petitioning for more than one type. For starters, there are two main categories of family-based green cards.
These green cards are only available to the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. If you keep up with the monthly visa bulletins released by the Department of State, you will see that these green cards have been excluded. This is because one of the main benefits of these is the fact that the priority dates for IR visas are automatically current, meaning that there is no obligatory waiting period once the petition has been approved.
Here are the five IR green cards:
- IR-1: This is for the spouses of U.S citizens
- IR-2: This green card is for a U.S citizen’s unmarried children who are under the age of 21
- IR-3: This third level would be used for an orphan who was previously adopted by the U.S. citizen in a foreign country.
- IR-4: In the same vein as the previous level, this one is for orphans who are being brought to the U.S. to be adopted
- IR-5: Lastly, the fifth level is for the parent of a U.S. citizen who is over the age of 21.
These green cards are available to the non-immediate relatives of U.S. citizens as well as the immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents (green card holders). In contrast to the IR green cards, these do have backlogged priority date waiting times.
- F-1: for the unmarried children over the age of 21 of U.S. citizens
- F-2: for the children under 21, spouses, and unmarried children over 21 of lawful permanent residents. There are two subcategories for this, the F-2A and the F-2B.
- F-3: for the married children of U.S. citizens as well as their spouses and any children they might have.
- F-4: for the siblings (brothers and sisters) of U.S. citizens
You will need to select the green card that best fits your situation and that of the person who is receiving the visa.
Which Forms Do You Need for a Family-Based Green Card?
The forms that are usually required for the family-based green card preference categories depend on which path was used to apply for the green card. However, there are a few forms that are required for all situations:
- I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This petition should be filed by your U.S. citizen sponsor.
- I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You must submit this after the I-130 has been approved.
If you entered or are entering the U.S. under a nonimmigrant K visa (meaning that you are the fiancé(e), spouse, or dependents of a fiancé(e) or spouse of a U.S. citizen), then there are several more forms that may be required before you can get a green card based on your situation.
- I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) – this is needed if you enter with K-1 or K-3 status.
- I-134 Affidavit of Support form. This form has no filing fee but is required as evidence that you will not need to rely on the U.S. government for financial support.
- In order to apply for your K visa, you will need the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application from the Department of State.
- If you would like to work in the U.S. while your green card is being processed, then you will need the I-765 Application for Employment Authorization.
- To travel in and out of the U.S. under K status during your green card processing time, an I-131 or I-131A Application for Travel Document is required.
Please note that this may or not be an exhaustive list depending on your situation. Because each immigration case is different, it is always advisable to consult with your immigration attorney to confirm which forms apply to your circumstances.
The USCIS New Fee Schedule
On December 23rd, 2016, the USCIS posted a new fee schedule that effectively raised the fees associated with almost every USCIS form available. For the forms listed above, the changes are as follows:
- I-130 has increased from $420 to $535
- I-485 has increased from $985 to $1,140
- I-129F has increased from $340 to $535
- I-765 has increased from $380 to $410
- I-131(A) has increased from $360 to $575
To see the DS-160 fees, you will need to check your home country’s embassy website as the cost varies according to the nation of origin.
It is important to note that not all of these forms are mandatory family-based green card filing fees. Depending on your case, some of these forms may not apply to you while other forms may apply that are not on this list.
How Should I Make These Payments?
The USCIS gives specific guidelines as to how filing fees should be paid. While a few forms can be paid online (the I-131A form, for example), most must be paid through the mail or in person.
The USCIS accepts cashier’s checks, personal checks, money orders, and bank drafts. Each fee must be paid in a separate payment, so avoid adding the fees together into one large payment sum.
If you decide to pay in person at a U.S. field office, you will be able to pay with a credit card.
Because the payment requirements associated with some forms depend on your country of citizenship, you can visit this website to get a better understanding of how these payments should be made
What Other Costs Are Involved?
Without the help of a qualified immigration attorney, some costs that are not associated with specific filing fees can easily go unnoticed until it’s too late.
For example, for many K visa scenarios, there is a mandatory biometrics fee for $85 that will be asked of you when you file your petition. If this fee is not included, then your petition will be rejected.
There is also an immigrant fee that must be paid once you receive your visa and before you enter the U.S. For family-based green card situations, this fee only applies to those who receive their green card while outside the U.S. K visa holders do not have to pay this cost if they are adjusting their status.
One cost that is often overlooked is travel cost. Going to and from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country can be expensive if you do not live nearby. Plus, depending on where your home country is located, your plane ticket to the U.S. could cost hundreds of dollars.
There is also a fee if you decide to hire an immigration attorney. While this fee adds to the list of costs associated with acquiring your green card, having an experienced lawyer on your side can save you not only money but also time by helping you file each form correctly and assisting you through the interview process.
Can I Get a Refund on My Family-Based Green Card Filing Fees?
Unfortunately, the USCIS will not give out a refund for an unfavorable decision on one of your petitions or applications. The circumstances that warrant a refund are as follows:
- The USCIS mistakenly asked you to file a form that was not necessary.
- A form was processed with a fee that was greater than that which is required.
- The USCIS did not process a petition filed with premium processing within 15 calendar days.
There may be extraordinary circumstances that could also warrant a refund of your family-based green card filing fees. If you and your immigration attorney feel that you deserve a refund, contact the USCIS.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
No matter what kind of visa or green card you are getting, the immigration process is often a complicated one. Missing information on your petition or a misfiled fee can easily result in weeks or even months of lost time, not to mention money. To ensure that your family-based green card fees are up to date with 2018 standards and also filed to the right places, the best solution is to hire an immigration attorney to help you with your case.
Our experienced attorneys specialize in helping families stay together throughout the immigration process. We are dedicated to the success of your case, and our lawyers will help you every step of the way from filing the petition to addressing any unforeseen obstacles.
To make sure that you stay current on the latest family-based green card filing fees and to help you determine which forms will be necessary for your case, you can fill out this form to get in contact with one of our immigration lawyers and schedule your consultation.