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To gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S., meaning to get a green card, there are expenses. These can include application fees, as well as legal fees, and other costs.
The following is a guide to what you should know about the process of getting a green card and how much it can end up costing, depending on your circumstances.
What is a Green Card?
When you’re a green card holder, that means you’re a permanent resident. You have legal authorization to live and work in the U.S. permanently. To prove your status, you’ll get a permanent resident card from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is where the name green card comes from.
You can become a lawful permanent resident and get your green card in a number of ways, including sponsorship from a family member in the U.S. or an American-based employer. You can become a lawful permanent resident if you’re a refugee or you’re seeking status as an asylum seeker, and also through filing individually.
Your rights as a green card holder include the ability to live on a permanent basis in the U.S. as long as you don’t do anything that would make you removable according to immigration law. You can work somewhere of your choosing, and you’re protected by the laws of the U.S. and by the laws of your state and the local area where you live.
The way you’d apply for a green card depends on what type.
For example, you can go through the green card lottery. You can apply for a family-based green card, or you might find an employer in the U.S. who’s going to sponsor you.
The shortest path is often if you’re the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
The Cost of Getting a Green Card
It can be expensive to even just apply for a green card.
If you’re an applicant already living in the U.S., the government filing fee is $1,760. If you’re living outside the U.S., then the filing fee is $1,200.
These filing fees don’t include the cost of the medical exam that’s required.
These costs do include things like the biometrics expenses and the cost of the family sponsorship form, which is I-130.
A medical exam can cost around $200, but this depends on the provider.
The government fees are paid simultaneously if you’re a spouse or immediate relative of a U.S. citizen and you live in the U.S.
In scenarios outside of that, your fees may be paid months apart from one another as you progress through various phases of the green card application process.
What About Other Possible Fees?
The above fees are only for the application process for a green card. These are direct government fees, but there can be many other expenses that come along with this process, which can include:
- The fees to get necessary vaccinations. If your medical exam requires it, you may need to follow an updated vaccination schedule before you can get the full medical report that you’ll need.
- Some documents might have to be translated into English, like your birth certificate, so you could have to pay someone to do this.
- There are document fees when you obtain supporting evidence like passports, marriage certificates, and birth certificates.
- You’ll have to get a professional passport-style photo taken.
- There may be travel expenses as part of the green card process. For example, you have to attend your medical exam, your biometrics appointment, and your in-person interview, all of which you’re responsible for covering the costs of.
- There are shipping costs for things like postage to mail your documents.
Some people wonder about legal expenses. Typically, you don’t need a lawyer to represent you If you’re getting a green card, but some people do hire one because it can reduce the risk of errors, take some of the stress out of the process, and may help speed things up.
When someone hires a green card attorney, even if it’s more of an upfront expense, they might be able to help them collect evidence and file things in a timely way that’s correct. Otherwise, there are more likely to be delays in processing.
If someone’s considered inadmissible, it can also be a good idea to hire an immigration lawyer.
While it’s not necessarily cheap to get a green card, it’s a worthwhile endeavor, and when you understand the expenses ahead of time, it can help you better save and budget.
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