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The change from being a temporary visa holder to becoming a permanent resident of the U.S is a big step for most people. One of the reasons for this is because there are a lot of costs involved which you should be aware of and plan for. Preparing for the process can also help to ensure that it runs smoothly.
Below we provide a short summary of the Form I-485 and the costs you can expect to come up in your application process. We also throw in a few tips to help you in the process.
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An I-485 form is a form people who want to immigrate to the U.S use to apply for a green card. This application process is called Adjustment of Status. The form I-485 is submitted to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when making the application.
An Adjustment of Status is where someone currently living in the U.S under a non-immigrant visa applies for their status to be changed to permanent (or conditional) resident. Essentially, this is obtaining a green card.
This process happens without you needing to leave the U.S. and sometimes involves an interview at a USCIS office.
It’s important to note that this is not the same process as someone living outside of the U.S applying for an immigrant visa. This procedure of consular processing is conducted by a U.S embassy or consular in the applicant’s home country.
The I-485 filing fee is the fee you have to pay the USCIS when you submit the form I-485. The amount of the fee varies based on different factors that include basic things like your age.
The filing fee is updated quite regularly so it will be a good idea to check the latest fees on the I-485 page. As of 2018, the following fees were applicable:
Note that if you apply for an Adjustment of Status based on having been admitted into the U.S as a refugee, no filing fees will be applicable for filing the form I-485.
Immigration issues in the U.S can get quite sticky. You want to avoid running into unnecessary trouble, so it is a good idea to make use of an immigration attorney when applying for your Adjustment of Status.
Most attorneys will charge a flat fee for preparing your form I-485. The fees for this process average at about $1225. The flat fee is definitely a perk if you have a complicated case that requires a lot of documentation (like affidavits). Some attorneys will also help prepare you for the interview.
There are attorneys who offer the option of time-based fees. This can save you money if you prepare the application yourself and simply have the attorney review it. Keep in mind that the hours can add up quite quickly if you made a lot of errors that have to be adjusted.
If you are worried that you cannot afford an immigration attorney, consider your loan options. Stilt provides loans specifically to immigrants and foreign students that can be used to help you pay for your filing fee and attorney fee.
It is a good idea to do your homework before you choose an attorney to help you with your Adjustment of Status. Do a proper comparison of available attorneys by looking up attorneys in your area, asking them for their fees and perhaps going for a first consultation. The first consultation is sometimes free or can cost around $100. It might even be a good idea to look up reviews online about attorneys you are considering using.
Here are some tips for choosing the right attorney. You can find most attorneys in your area online by doing a simple search on your local search engine.
Your move from temporary visa holder to permanent resident can be smooth sailing if you get the right advice and have the financial means. Don’t let the cost of the extra help stop you from making sure you approach the form I-485 the right way or let the filing fee prevent you from living your dream in the U.S. It’s a small cost to pay for a potentially lifelong step!