The Complete Guide to Immigration Fees: What You Should Know
When you move to another country, you are faced with numerous challenges. For one thing, you have to get acquainted with a new set of laws and specifications you have to abide by. To that end, as an immigrant in the US, there are some things you should know about – they are called immigration fees.
So, what are immigration fees and what are their specifics? Let’s find out.
As a rule of thumb, most visas are accompanied by application fees. However, while this applies in most scenarios, there are still some exceptions to the rule. Namely, immigrants from certain countries might not be required to pay the fee. Concurrently, there are other exemptions as well; but we will get into more detail later in the article.
The reason why you are required to pay an immigration fee is straightforward, so to speak. The USCIS requires the payment of the fee in order to process the visa packet, and afterward, facilitate the permanent resident card. This is actually your soon-to-be green card. It is true that the process of getting a green card can be quite time-consuming, but this is the only way in which you can gain permanent residence in the US.
That being said, there are different specifications that apply to each category of visa applicants. In other words, there’s no such thing as a universal visa immigration fee that is applicable to all scenarios, as you can clearly notice in the table below.
How to Pay Immigration Fees
Let’s move on to another important question you might have as a non-US resident, and that is: how to pay immigration fees? There are some things you should note. For example, there are different payment methods, just as there is a refund policy.
From Outside the US
If you live outside the US, you still have the possibility of filing the application or petition from your country of residence. You should go to this source and find out if this possibility is applicable in your country.
Nevertheless, if you want to start the process before arriving in the US, you should know that not all forms of payment are accepted abroad. Make sure you bear this in mind throughout the process.
From Within the US
In the meantime, if you are currently in the United States, then there are several ways in which you can pay for the immigration fees. For one thing, you have the credit/debit card payment, check payment, bank withdrawal, by mail, by check or by card, or in person at a field office.
Unless you submit the correct and necessary fees for your status, the form will be rejected. This may be as stressful as submitting visa stamping documents?
Before we talk in more detail about the payment methods for covering your immigration fees, let’s discuss a bit about the refund policy. The moment you send out a payment, regardless of the chosen method, this means that you agree to pay for a service.
With that in mind, the biometric service fees aren’t refundable, irrespective of the turn taken by the petition, application or request. This is why you should take the time to determine the immigration fees that apply in your given circumstances, to avoid unwanted complications that could arise. The online free calculator can come in handy in this direction.
Paying with Check
First, you can pay your immigration fees with cashier’s checks, bank drafts, personal checks, certified checks, or money orders from US financial institutions. As a rule of thumb, your application form should be accompanied by the check or money.
However, in the case of some forms, you might have the possibility of filing the application and making the payment for the immigration fees in person at a USCIS field office in the US. It’s also worth noting that there are some offices whose specifications differ. That is to say, the Field Office in Los Angeles, for example, doesn’t accept cashier’s checks or money orders. To avoid unwanted scenarios, you should check this news page for regular updates.
There are other things you should note before submitting a check. Firstly, when you provide a check payment, this means that the check will be transformed into an electronic fund transfer. In other words, your information goes through several check procedures.
At the same time, bear in mind that electronic transfers can occur quite fast. If the check is returned as unpayable for two times in a row, then your filing will be rejected, and you’ll have to pay a $30 fee.
How to Write Your Check
If you’re paying with a personal check, then it should be pre-printed, featuring your name and your bank’s name. In regards to your phone number and address, they should be typed, pre-printed or written in ink. Also, you should sign the check in ink, using your legal name.
Paying with Credit Card
The second option is, of course, paying with a credit card. Once again, double check that the card has sufficient money for covering the expense of the immigration fee. Otherwise, if the card is declined, this will result in the rejection of the application. Concurrently, the credit card payment won’t be processed a second time.
Acceptable Credit Cards
You can use the following: American Express, MasterCard, Visa, and Discover.
If you decide to file the form online, then you will be taken through the payment process with a debit, credit, or pre-paid card. When you pay online, you may also choose bank account withdrawals. After filling out the forms online, you will be automatically redirected to the secure Department or Treasury site – pay.gov. USCIS utilizes pay-gov exclusively for processing the fees.
Note that there are scammers that may attempt to convince you that they represent the USCIS; this is why you should be doubly mindful in this respect. Just as you would be if you were looking for a visa sponsor.
Also, carry in mind that the victims of immigration fraud are prone to be deported, which is primarily why you should be aware of the main scams that can lead to much worse consequences than simply losing money. Being extra cautious can go a long way.
Filing by Mail
And lastly, there is also the alternative of filing your immigration fees via mail. If this seems like the best alternative for you, there are some things you should note. For one thing, you should start by completing the required form, and attaching it on the top of your petition, application or request. Once you do that, you can proceed and email the entire package to a USCIS Lockbox.
If your form is accepted, then your credit card will be charged the given amount. In addition, the form you’ve completed will be destroyed. This way, your credit card information is protected. Even if the application is rejected, the form is also rejected, for the same purpose. Make sure you check your credit card statement to determine whether the USCIS has charged the sum or not. If you are clueless, you can always consult with this page for handy tips.
On a different note, perhaps one of the worst things about moving to a new country is that you continually have to be aware of the law. The same applies in the case of immigration fees. The fees are adjusted on a regular basis. For example, on the 23rd of December, 2016, a range of new specifications have become applicable. Make sure you carry this in mind.
USCIS Immigrant Fee
According to a USCIS release, many visa applications have been rejected on the grounds of incorrect fees. This is why you should get your facts straight before making your payment, to eliminate any errors.
There is a handy online fee calculator you can use in order to establish the precise filing and biometric fees. As the USCIS had put it, the purpose of this calculator is to provide a higher degree of certainty. Hence, granted that you have any doubts left in this respect, you can use the calculator.
Moving on, it is highly advisable to pay this immigration fee before leaving your home country. In some cases, though, you might be unable to do that. In such instances, you will have to pay the fee after arriving in the country.
Concurrently, if the USCIS doesn’t have a record pointing out that you’ve paid the fee, it will send out a notice with comprehensive instructions. Note that unless you pay the USCIS immigrant fee, you won’t get your green card.
Now let’s address some common questions regarding immigration fees.
Who Pays the Immigrant Fee?
For one thing, anyone can try to pay the USCIS immigrant fee on your behalf, granted that you don’t have the means to do so. In other words, the fee can be paid by a family member, a friend, an employer, an accredited representative, an attorney, and the list could go on.
In case you choose to pay the fee after your arrival in the United States, then you will receive a notice requesting payment. The notice will be accompanied by instructions.
But who are the people that don’t have to pay the immigration fees? We’ve mentioned at the beginning of the article that some exceptions apply.
So, the people who don’t have to pay the fee are the children that entered the country under Hague or orphan adoption programs. Concurrently, Afghan and Iraqi special immigrants don’t have to pay immigration fees. K nonimmigrants and SB-1s (returning lawful permanent residents) don’t have to worry about paying an immigration fee either.
How to Pay the Immigrant Fee?
Now you can choose to pay the immigration fee online. The US Consulate or Embassy will facilitate the following: a sealed immigrant visa packet, immigrant data summary, A-Number, instructions handout, and a DOS Case ID entailing 3 letters followed by 9 or 10 numbers.
Now, in case you’re filing as a Diversity Visa immigrant, then this means that your DOS Case ID will feature 4 numbers, 2 letters, and another 5 numbers. You should go to this page, and closely follow the steps indicated there. Note that, if you’re paying the immigration fees for your entire family, you might be required to pay the entire sum in a single transaction.
Ensure that all the payment information is valid. Once you do that, you can pay via a debit card or a credit card, or facilitate your US bank routing, so that the sum is taken out directly from your bank account. Afterward, you can proceed and travel to the US and arrive with the immigrant visa packet. This means that you are granted the position of a lawful permanent resident in the United States.
Ensure that the address where your green card is to be delivered is correct and it hasn’t changed in the meantime. After the USCIS immigrant fee is verified, then your green card will be mailed to you or provided to you during your immigrant visa interview.
What payment methods are there for paying immigration fees? There are some options you can choose from, depending on what works best for you. Let’s have a look at each alternative.
First, you can pay the immigration fees via credit card, debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo, as well as pre-paid debit card (a Visa gift card will do), or a U.S bank account – referred to as an Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment.
Now, in case you choose to pay via a pre-paid debit card, then you can use one card alone. Check in advance whether you have sufficient money on the card to cover the immigration fees’ costs, especially if you’re paying for your entire family.
On the other hand, if you pay with a U.S. bank account, then you must provide a U.S. checking account number, accompanied by a routing number for your bank. Check this page for help if you’re encountering problems.
Failure to Pay
What are the consequences of failing to pay the immigration fee? If you don’t manage to pay the necessary fee, then you won’t get your green card – it’s as simple as that. Nevertheless, not managing to pay the immigrant fee won’t have a negative impact on your status as a lawful permanent resident.
In this scenario, though, as indicated in your temporary l-551 stamp CBP in your passport, your evidence of lawful permanent residence will be of one year only. Thus, this could be a disadvantage, so to speak.
Track Card Status
Technology definitely aims at making things easier and more convenient. And it is definitely the case in this situation, as well. That is to say, after having paid the immigration fee, you can check your card status by visiting this website. Afterward, you should select the check my case status.
After being officially admitted to the United States, you will receive your green card at the home address you have provided at the beginning. Conversely, the green card may also be redirected to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. In the case in which you know that you will change your address within a short timeframe, make sure you inform the CBP officer. This way, you can be 100 percent confident that you will get the card.
On a different note, what do you do if, within 120 days after having paid the USCIS Immigrant Fee you didn’t receive your green card? In this situation, you should request assistance by filing this online help form. It is critical to double-check your information beforehand, to ensure that the home address is correct.
About the Immigrant Fee
On a final note, you should know that the USCIS immigrant fee isn’t linked to the application fees collected by DOS. Expressly, it is used for a sole purpose: namely for processing the immigrant visa pocket after your arrival in the US. As we already pointed out, this fee also pays the expenses necessary for the release of the green card.
Take into consideration that you will also have to pay an immigration visa application fee to the DOS – which stands for US Department of State. But this is a separate immigration fee, so to speak.
All in all, it’s not that easy to be an immigrant in the US, or any other country, for a change. The law system can be a tad complicated to understand at least until you get accustomed with it, as each country comes with a bunch of strict specifications.
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