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Green Card Application Fee for Spouse: A Step-by-Step Breakdown

For couples dreaming of a future together in the United States, obtaining a Green Card through marriage is a pivotal step. This process, though filled with promise, can also be complex and overwhelming. A crucial part of this journey is having a clear understanding of the associated costs. Knowing what to expect financially helps couples plan better and ensures a smoother application process.

With the USCIS fee adjustments taking effect on April 1, 2024, staying updated on the latest cost changes is essential. In this blog, we’ll break down the Green Card process through marriage and provide a detailed cost overview, so you can navigate your path to permanent residency with confidence and clarity.

Understanding Green Cards through Marriage

A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that grants foreign nationals the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Obtaining a Green Card through marriage offers numerous benefits, including the ability to work in any field, access to public education, and the opportunity to eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.

Benefits of a Green Card

  • Work Authorization: Freedom to work in any field without needing a separate work visa.
  • Education: Access to public education and, in some cases, lower tuition rates.
  • Path to Citizenship: Eligibility to apply for U.S. citizenship after meeting residency requirements.
  • Social Benefits: Eligibility for Social Security benefits and other government assistance programs.

Distinctions in the Application Process

  1. Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (USC)
  • Immediate Availability: No annual cap on Green Cards for spouses of U.S. citizens.
  • Concurrent Filing: Ability to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) simultaneously.
  • Work and Travel Permits: Can apply for a work permit (Form I-765) and travel authorization (Form I-131) concurrently with the Green Card application.
  • Faster Processing: Typically faster processing times due to the absence of annual limits.
  1. Spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR)
  • Annual Cap: Subject to annual limits on the number of available Green Cards, leading to potential waiting periods.
  • Priority Date: Must wait for the priority date to become current before adjusting the status.
  • Separate Filings: Usually cannot file Form I-130 and Form I-485 simultaneously; must wait for I-130 approval first.
  • Longer Processing Time: Often longer processing times due to quota restrictions and waiting periods.

Mandatory Government Fees for Green Cards (Effective April 1, 2024)

 

Type Cost if Applicant Living in the U.S. Cost if Applicant Living Abroad
Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status $1,140 N/A
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative $560 $560
Form I-131, Application for Travel Document $575 $575
Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence $680 N/A
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization $410 $410
Form N-400, Application for Naturalization $725 N/A

 

Applicant Living Abroad: Consular processing is the method used by spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who are applying for a Green Card from outside the United States. This process involves submitting necessary forms and attending an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country.

Applicant Living in the U.S.: For spouses of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents already residing in the United States, the process of obtaining a Green Card is known as “Adjustment of Status.” This process allows eligible individuals to apply for a Green Card without having to return to their home country for visa processing. 

Additional Fees and Expenses

Applying for a Green Card can involve several additional fees beyond the basic application costs. These additional expenses may include biometric fees, medical examination costs, and legal fees. It’s important for applicants to be aware of these potential extra costs to ensure they are fully prepared for the financial commitment involved in the Green Card application process.

Fee Type Cost Purpose
Biometrics Fee $85 Covers the cost of fingerprinting and background checks
Medical Examination Varies (typically $200-$500) Required health screening to ensure the applicant meets health standards
USCIS Immigrant Fee $220 Covers the cost of producing and delivering the Green Card
Attorney Fees Varies (typically $1,000-$5,000) Legal assistance for navigating the Green Card application process

 

Steps for Payment Methods

Paying for Green Card fees involves multiple steps and understanding the correct methods to make these payments can help ensure a smooth application process. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) provides several options for applicants to pay their fees, depending on their location and preference. Below, we detail the authorized payment methods and the steps to complete each payment.

  1. Credit or Debit Card:
    • For Online Applications:
      1. Complete your application on the USCIS online portal.
      2. Choose the credit or debit card option during the payment section.
      3. Enter your card details and complete the payment.
    • For Paper Applications:
      1. Download and complete Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
      2. Submit the completed form with your application package.
  2. Bank Draft or Cashier’s Check:
    • Ensure the check is drawn from a U.S. bank and payable in U.S. currency.
    • Make the check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
    • Include your name and application type on the memo line of the check.
  3. Money Order:
    • Obtain a money order from a U.S. Post Office, bank, or other financial institution.
    • Make the money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
    • Include your name and application type on the money order.
  4. Personal Check:
    • Ensure the check is drawn from a U.S. bank.
    • Make the check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
    • Include your name and application type on the memo line of the check.
    • Note that a personal check may delay processing if there are insufficient funds.

How Hiring the Best Attorney Can Help Save on Green Card Costs

Hiring an experienced attorney can significantly impact the cost-effectiveness and success of your Green Card application process. Here are seven important and meaningful points highlighting the benefits:

Expert Guidance: Attorneys provide personalized advice based on your specific case, avoiding costly mistakes and delays.

Efficient Document Preparation: Proper preparation and review of documents ensure all required information is correctly presented, reducing the risk of rejections and resubmissions​

Navigating Complex Legal Requirements: Attorneys understand the nuances of immigration law and can effectively navigate complex requirements that might be overlooked otherwise​.

Avoiding Common Pitfalls: With extensive experience, attorneys can identify and prevent common application errors that could lead to additional fees or delays​​.

Strategic Application Timing: They can advise on the best times to submit applications, potentially expediting the process and saving on prolonged wait times​.

Fee Waivers and Reductions: Attorneys can identify eligibility for fee waivers or reductions, helping you save on application costs​ ​.

For expert legal assistance, consider consulting Sweta Khandelwal, who specializes in immigration law and can help you streamline your Green Card application process efficiently.

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Sweta Khandelwal

Sweta completed her Masters in Law from the University of California, Los Angeles and her JD from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University in India and has been practicing law for 15+ years getting visas, green cards, and citizenship for 1000+ clients, 100+ companies across 50+ nationalities.

Sweta has been recognized as a ” Super Lawyer, Rising Star,” and as amongst the ” Top 40 under 40″ immigration attorneys in California (American Society of Legal Advocates). She is also the recipient of the Advocacy Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Sweta is also a chartered accountant — the equivalent of a CPA. This makes her uniquely positioned to understand the immigration needs of her business clients in the broader context of their corporate objectives.

Sweta is actively involved with immigration issues and immigrant communities in various capacities. She has assumed key roles at the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), both at the local and national level. She has been a past chair at the Santa Clara Valley Chapter at AILA and has also been involved in various practice area committees at AILA National. Sweta has addressed multiple conferences/forums in the United States and worldwide on immigration and business issues.

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