How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

Applying for a green card can be expensive. Here's a break down of the costs you should know about.

Nutshell

In a nutshell.

There are various ways to get a green card. In increasing order of cost, three ways are most prominent: 1) A spouse or a relative in the U.S can sponsor you, 2) you can also have a job in the U.S., in which case your employer sponsors you (your case strengthens if you have a technical degree), and 3) you can obtain enough capital to invest in the U.S. by, for example, buying large amounts of stock or building a business.

Each route has unique costs that will depend on attorneys fees and individual circumstances, but these can be roughly estimated. Note that in addition to the filing fees indicated below, petitioning for green cards may also include extraneous fees such as doctors fees, passport photos, medical examinations, etc.

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What Exactly is a Green Card

Getting a green card is the first major step towards attaining United States citizenship. If you currently have family or a job located in the U.S., you may be eligible to apply for one. A green-card allows you to stay, work, and study in the U.S. for as long as you want with no expiration date, as long as you do not commit crimes or violate the green-card terms. Having a green card is very close to having citizenship, but it does not afford you the right to vote. Having a green card also means you can sponsor family members abroad, which helps them get their own green cards.

Cost of a Family-Based Green Card Application

Family based sponsorships allow U.S. citizens to apply for green cards for their family members, spouses, and fiancés. U.S. green card holders may also petition for family green cards, but are limited to petitions for their spouses and unmarried children. In these cases, the process and filing costs are fairly similar. Family-based petitions can cost up to $4,000 or more with attorneys fees. Here at Borderwise, we use technology to help you prepare an application and review it with a lawyer for only $500. Start an application on Borderwise here.

Sponsoring a Family Member

The petitioner first files a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which costs $535 to file. After it is approved, you may file the Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status,” for a $1225 fee. This includes the $85 Biometrics fee and applies to those that are between the ages of 14 and 78. If the applicant is 13 or younger, this total application fee is $750.

Sponsoring a Fiancé

If you are engaged to a U.S. citizen and will marry your fiancé within 90 days of entering the U.S., your fiancé may petition for you to get a green card by filing Form I-129F. This form is called the “Petition for Alien Fiancé” and costs $535 to file. Once the two of you are married, your now spouse may apply for permanent residence.

Cost of an Employment-Based Green Card Application

Most employment petitions require a job offer in the United States and for the employer to also petition for the immigrant worker. Note that green cards based on employment are accepted on a tiered preference system, with priority going to applicants with advanced degrees. There are also two ways you can obtain a green card without a job offer: workers of extraordinary ability, and individuals who have been granted a National Interest Waiver.

Employment-based sponsorship generally costs about $10,000 with attorneys fees.

Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker

In employer-based green card petitions, the employer petitions for the alien worker by filing Form I-140, “Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.” There is no filing fee involved. However, employers must obtain the Permanent Labor Certifications (PERM), which can cost from about $4000 to $7000, or more. Most of the cost of employer-based green cards comes from this first portion of the case, which requires the employer to advertise and recruit for the said position to demonstrate the unique need for the alien worker.

After it is approved, you may file the Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status," for a $1225 filing fee. This includes the $85 Biometrics fee and applies to those that are between the ages of 14 and 78. If the applicant is 13 or younger, this total application fee is $750.

Extraordinary Ability (EB-1)

If you are someone who is recognized as being at the top of their field or has achieved international recognition for their work (such an Oscar, Pulitzer, or Olympic Medal), you may be eligible to self-petition for an EB-1 “Extraordinary Ability Visa” classification. You may petition for yourself by filing form I-140 “Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.” There is no filing fee involved.

After it is approved, you may file the Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status," for a $1225 filing fee. This includes the $85 Biometrics fee and applies to those that are between the ages of 14 and 78. If the applicant is 13 or younger, this total application fee is $750.

National Interest Waiver (EB-2)

If you hold an advanced degree and can demonstrate that your potential work would be a national benefit, you may be eligible to self-petition for an EB-2 visa classification with a request for a National Interest Waiver. You may petition for yourself by filing form I-140, “Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.” There is no filing fee involved.

After it is approved, you may file the Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status," for a $1225 filing fee. This includes the $85 Biometrics fee and applies to those that are between the ages of 14 and 78. If the applicant is 13 or younger, this total application fee is $750.

Cost of an Investment-Based Green Card (EB-5) Application

Generally, the most expensive way to obtain a green card is through investing in the U.S. Roughly speaking, it can cost anywhere from $500,000 - $1 million USD in addition to application and filing fees. If you plan to invest at least $500k or create 10 new full-time positions in the U.S., you may be eligible to apply for the EB-5, “Immigrant Investor” visa. You must file form Form I-526, “Petition by Alien Entrepreneur,” which costs $3,675 to file.

After it is approved, you may file the Form I-485, "Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status," for a $1225 filing fee. This includes the $85 Biometrics fee and applies to those that are between the ages of 14 and 78. If the applicant is 13 or younger, this total application fee is $750.

Other Routes

Although this article addresses the three most popular ways people get green cards, there are also alternative routes that have many of the same associated fees. You and your family member, spouse, or employer should speak with an attorney for more information specific to your situation.