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Confused by the changes to permanent resident fee-payment rules?

Some changes were recently made to the procedures at the U.S. Department of State for paying the fees required for family-based immigrants seeking lawful permanent residence in the U.S., or "green cards." Depending on your situation, there may be two fees.

Every immigrant applying for permanent residency must pay the U.S. Immigrant Visa fee to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you're applying for a green card and are already in the U.S., you will also need to pay a separate fee to the Department of State's National Visa Center to process your I-864 Affidavit of Support.

The reason this can be confusing is the requirements for who has to pay these fees and when. Either the immigrant or the petitioner (also called the sponsor) can pay the processing fee for the I-864 affidavit, although it is more commonly paid by the petitioner. It can be paid by a transfer from a checking account, a certified check or a money order. The fee is currently set at $88 for those applying for permanent residency from within the U.S.

Once you’ve filed the I-864 affidavit and the National Visa Center is ready to process it, the center will send an invoice for the fee to your petitioner, along with payment instructions.

Next is the U.S. Immigrant Visa Fee paid to the USCIS. This is required for processing and producing your green card, currently $165. The rules for payment are different for this fee.

  • Only the immigrant can legally pay this fee, although one person can pay for all accompanying family members.
  • It is to be paid online, and only by a credit card, a debit card, or transfer from a checking account -- not a money order or certified check.
  • The immigrant has up to a year to pay the fee.

If you don’t pay the fee within a year, it won’t technically affect your status as a lawful permanent resident, but the USCIS will not issue you a green card until you pay. Therefore, the agency recommends you pay this fee after you receive your visa packet but before you enter the U.S., if you’re applying from abroad.

You should also know that fee waivers are available in certain circumstances. Check with an immigration lawyer or the USCIS for more information.

Source: New York Daily News Citizenship NOW! blog, “For green card, enter land of the fee,” Allan Wernick, Oct. 15, 2013

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