New Immigrant Fee Effective February 1, 2013

1384587_brown_envelope_money_bribe_1.jpg Foreign nationals eligible for U.S. permanent residence (a green card) can apply for permanent residence either by: (1) completing an "adjustment of status" from within the U.S., or (2) by applying for an immigrant visa at the appropriate U.S. Consulate abroad, and then entering the U.S. as an immigrant.

Foreign nationals who are already in the U.S., and meet exacting criteria, have the option to file an Application to Adjust Status with the USCIS. Once the USCIS approves the applications, the agency creates and mails the green cards to the applicants. Foreign nationals who are abroad must obtain an immigrant visa from the U.S. consulate in their home country (a procedure call "consular processing") and use that immigrant visa to enter the U.S. as an immigrant.

Beginning on February 1, 2013, foreign nationals who obtain immigrant visas via consular processing will now be required to pay a USCIS Immigrant Fee of $165 USD. (Note that this new fee is in addition to the present Department of State visa application processing fee.)

When immigrant visa holders enter the U.S., their documents are forwarded to USCIS for USCIS to create and mail their green cards. The new fee, which was announced on September 24, 2010, will assist USCIS in recovering its costs of processing these immigrant documents and producing and delivering the green cards to the new permanent residents.

Almost every foreign national who completes consular processing on or after February 1, 2013 will be required to pay the new USCIS Immigrant Fee. However, the fee will not be required from foreign national children who are coming to the U.S. pursuant to an intercountry adoption arrangement (but USCIS has stated that it will consider implementing a fee for adopted children during its next fee discussion).

Foreign nationals subject to the new fee are required to pay the fee online at the USCIS website. Applicants can pay the fee by providing their checking account information or debit/credit card information at the USCIS website. USCIS assures immigrant visa applicants that its website is secure and protected against identity theft.

Immigrant visa applicants are instructed to make their fee payments after they receive their visa packages from the Department of State but before they leave for the United States. If the applicant cannot make the payment, someone else can make it on the applicant's behalf.

The failure to pay the new fee will not affect the applicant's lawful permanent resident status. However, foreign nationals will not receive their green cards until the fee is paid. Instead, when the foreign national enters the U.S. with the immigrant visa, the immigration officer will stamp the person's passport with a stamp showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident. This stamp will be valid for only one year, so it is in foreign nationals' best interests to pay the immigrant visa fee as soon as possible.

The Gee Law Firm closely follows all USCIS developments and our office is consistently up-to-date on all new procedures and policies in immigration law. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney about your case.

Additional Blog Posts

Employment-Based Green Card Waiting Times Explained by USCIS, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, September 29, 2009
Why USCIS Might Be At Your Door, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer, November 20, 2009

Adjustment of Status / by Michelle Gee