According to the USCIS, the agency’s primary source of funding is not from the government but from fees the agency charges applicants and petitioners who are seeking naturalization or immigration benefits. Anyone preparing to seek immigration benefits for a relative must also be prepared to pay the associated fees, which in some cases, may add up quickly. For that reason, it may be tempting to skip the perceived expense of hiring a family immigration lawyer and trying to navigate it all yourself – but that choice does not always pay off. Learn what costs you may expect when petitioning for an alien relative and see why hiring an immigration attorney can be a wise investment.
What Kind of Documents Do You Need to Start a Petition for an Alien Relative?
The main document you will need to initiate a petition to bring your relative to live in the USA (or to request an adjustment of status for a relative already present in the country) is a form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. This form enables a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident to kickstart the process of seeking immigration benefits for their close relatives, such as spouses, parents, or children.
In addition to form I-130, a petitioner should also be ready to submit proof of U.S. Citizenship. In the case of a lawful permanent resident, proof of their immigration status. This can be done by submitting any supporting documents such as a U.S. birth certificate or passport or a copy of an alien registration card (green card).
How Much Does It Cost to File a Form I-130?
The USCIS updates its fee schedules every year, so it is important to refer to the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information. As of 2023, the required fee to submit a form I-130 is $535 for each form. That means if you are petitioning for more than one relative, you should be prepared to pay the filing fee for each one of them. The exception is when a relative qualifies as a derivative beneficiary (such as the minor child of a beneficiary) and may be included in the same petition. Otherwise, this fee cannot be reduced or waived, and failure to pay would likely result in a denied application.
Some beneficiaries may be asked to pay an additional $85 if a biometric appointment is required. A biometric appointment is used by the USCIS to verify an applicant’s identity by scanning fingerprints and taking pictures at a designated biometric service location. The $85 fee applies to every person included in an application, so if your I-130 has multiple beneficiaries or if you have filed an I-130 for more than one immediate relative, each person may be required to pay the biometric fee.
Are There Any Other Fees Associated With a Family-Based Petition?
It is extremely important to understand that the I-130 processing fee and the biometric fee are just the beginning. Depending on the path applicable to your case, you (or your relative) must be prepared to pay other additional fees at different stages of your immigration petition process.
For example, if your relative is already in the United States and qualifies for an adjustment of status (form I-485), you may submit form I-130 and form 1-485 at the same time. However, you will also need to pay the processing fee associated with filing I-485, which as of 2023, can vary from $750 to $1140 per applicant. The only exception is for applicants filing I-485 as a refugee, which can receive a $0 filing fee for this particular form.
Your immigrant relative should also be prepared to pay additional fees if they are currently abroad and require an interview and an immigrant visa before they can travel to join you in the United States. Consular processing fees vary, and immigrant visa application fees are around $325 as of 2023. In addition, your relative should be prepared to pay for passport photos, travel documents, medical examination fees, and other miscellaneous expenses that may be associated with obtaining an immigrant visa. As always, check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fees applicable to your case.
Why Is Hiring an Immigration Attorney a Good Investment?
In addition to fees paid directly to the USCIS, you may also want to consider the cost of hiring an immigration attorney. Every immigration law firm may have a different fee schedule and allow for different payment arrangements. Some may charge you an hourly fee, while others may offer a flat fee depending on your case type. However, many clients find it extremely beneficial to be able to rely on the services of an attorney.
Many petitions get denied by the USCIS due to errors or insufficient information, lack of proper supporting documents, or other common issues that could likely have been avoided if an attorney was handling the task of submitting your application in the first place. Once your application is denied, you will likely not get your application fees back and will need to start it all over again. Instead of wasting time and potentially wasting money trying to figure it all out yourself, investing in the services of a skilled immigration attorney can deliver positive returns, helping your case progress more smoothly and avoiding preventable mistakes.
If you are considering hiring an immigration attorney, be sure to do your research and interview more than one professional to find a law firm with the right fee options for your case.