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Detailed Cost Breakdown for a Marriage Green Card

Glen D. Wasserstein, Managing Partner of ILG, specializes in immigration law, focusing on E-2 Investor Visas, L-1 visas, H-1B visas, and federal litigation. With a background in international relations, he founded ILG in 1996 and has addressed human trafficking at the United Nations Convention on Crime.

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Understanding the costs of obtaining a marriage-based green card is crucial for couples. The marriage green card cost includes filing fees, medical exams, and other expenses. In 2024, the USCIS increased its fees, affecting overall costs.

On average, the government filing fees for a marriage green card can range from $1,200 to $1,760, depending on whether you apply from within the U.S. or abroad. Medical exam fees typically add another $200 to $500, and legal assistance can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.

As of 2023, 12.7 million permanent residents in the US are with green-card VISA. However, it’s not an easy route to take. Being well-prepared for these expenses ensures a smoother application process and helps avoid financial surprises. This guide will break down the various costs involved, providing a comprehensive overview to help you navigate this journey towards permanent residence.


Understanding a Marriage-Based Green Card

A marriage-based green card allows a foreign spouse to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States through their U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse. Let’s break down the essential details, including the marriage green card cost, eligibility requirements, and the benefits it provides.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for a marriage green card, you must meet specific criteria:

  • Legally Valid Marriage: Your marriage must be legally recognized.
  • Genuine Relationship: Prove that your marriage is authentic and not solely for immigration purposes.
  • Supporting Documents: Submit necessary documents such as your marriage certificate, birth certificates, and passport photo pages.
  • Health and Security: Pass a medical examination and meet vaccination requirements.

Benefits of a Marriage-Based Green Card

Obtaining a marriage green card provides several advantages:

  • Right to Live and Work in the U.S.: Enjoy the freedom to live and work anywhere in the country.
  • Path to Citizenship: You can apply for U.S. citizenship after a few years.
  • Permanent Resident Card: Receive a green card, granting you the same rights and responsibilities as other green card holders.

Application Process for Those Within the U.S.

If you’re already in the U.S., you can adjust your status by filing Form I-485.Here’s what you need to know:

  • USCIS Filing Fees: Be prepared for these mandatory costs.
  • Medical Examination: Ensure you meet health requirements, which include medical exam fees and vaccination fees.
  • Legal Assistance: While optional, hiring an immigration lawyer can help streamline the process.
  • Travel Expenses: Budget for any travel required to attend necessary appointments.

Application Process for Those Outside the U.S.

For those applying from abroad, consular processing is required:

  • File Form DS-260: This is your immigrant visa application form.
  • Consular Interview: Attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
  • Associated Costs: Be ready to pay fees for the immigrant visa application, medical exam, and supporting documents.

Conditional Green Card

If your marriage is less than two years old when your green card is approved, you will be issued a conditional green card. To remove conditions:

  • File Form I-751: This must be done before the conditional green card expires.

Understanding the marriage green card process and the associated costs can make the journey smoother. Proper preparation ensures you are ready for each step, from filing fees to medical exams, leading you to permanent residence and eventually citizenship.

Cost of Filing for a Green Card within the United States

Filing for a marriage green card within the United States involves several costs that applicants need to consider. These costs include filing fees for various forms, medical examination fees, and potential legal assistance expenses. Here is a detailed breakdown of the marriage green card cost when adjusting status from within the U.S.

Key Filing Fees

  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
    • Purpose: To establish the relationship between the U.S. citizen or green card holder and the foreign spouse.
    • Filing Fee: $535
  2. Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
    • Purpose: To apply for permanent residence.
    • Filing Fee: $1,140
    • Biometrics Fee: $85
  3. Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
    • Purpose: To request permission to work in the U.S. while the green card application is pending.
    • Filing Fee: No additional fee if filed with Form I-485
  4. Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document)
    • Purpose: To apply for advance parole, allowing travel outside the U.S. while the green card application is pending.
    • Filing Fee: No additional fee if filed with Form I-485

Medical Examination and Vaccination Fees

  • Medical Examination Fee: Typically ranges from $200 to $500 depending on the provider.
  • Vaccination Fees: Variable based on the required vaccinations and individual health circumstances.

Legal Assistance

  • Immigration Lawyer Fees: Costs can vary widely, typically ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 for assistance with the marriage green card process.

Additional Costs

  • Supporting Documents: Costs for obtaining certified copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other necessary documents.
  • Shipping Fees: Costs for mailing documents to USCIS.
  • Travel Expenses: Costs for traveling to appointments, such as biometrics and the green card interview.

Cost of Filing for a Green Card from Outside the United States

Filing for a marriage green card from outside the United States involves a different set of expenses compared to filing from within the U.S. This process, known as consular processing, requires paying various fees for forms, medical examinations, and travel-related costs. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the costs associated with obtaining a marriage green card from abroad.

Key Filing Fees

  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
    • Purpose: To establish the relationship between the U.S. citizen or green card holder and the foreign spouse.
    • Filing Fee: $535
  2. Form DS-260 (Immigrant Visa Application)
    • Purpose: To apply for an immigrant visa to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident.
    • Filing Fee: $325
  3. Affidavit of Support (Form I-864)
    • Purpose: To show that the U.S. citizen or green card holder can financially support the foreign spouse.
    • Filing Fee: No additional fee (included with other consular processing fees)

Medical Examination and Vaccination Fees

  • Medical Examination Fee: Typically ranges from $200 to $500, depending on the country and provider.
  • Vaccination Fees: Variable based on required vaccinations and individual health circumstances.

Consular Processing Fees

  • USCIS Immigrant Fee: $220, payable after receiving the visa and before entering the United States.
  • Document Fees: Costs for obtaining and certifying necessary documents like birth certificates and police clearance certificates.

Travel-Related Costs

  • Travel Expenses: Costs for traveling to the U.S. embassy or consulate for the green card interview. This can include airfare, accommodation, and local transportation.
  • Passport Fees: Costs for obtaining or renewing a passport if necessary.

Renewal Costs

Renewing a marriage-based green card involves several specific costs that applicants should be aware of. The renewal process is necessary to maintain lawful permanent resident status and avoid any interruptions in your ability to live and work in the United States. Here’s a detailed look at the costs involved in renewing a marriage green card.

Key Renewal Fees

  1. Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card)
    • Purpose: To apply for the renewal or replacement of a green card.
    • Filing Fee: $455
  2. Biometrics Fee
    • Purpose: To cover the cost of fingerprinting and other biometric services required for background checks.
    • Fee: $85

Potential Additional Costs

  • Legal Assistance: While not mandatory, hiring an immigration lawyer can help ensure that the renewal application is completed accurately and submitted on time. Legal fees can range from $500 to $1,500, depending on the complexity of the case.
  • Documentation Costs: You may need to provide updated supporting documents such as passport photos, proof of residence, or employment authorization documents. The cost for obtaining and certifying these documents can vary but generally ranges from $50 to $200.
  • Shipping Fees: Costs for mailing the renewal application and any supporting documents to USCIS can vary depending on the mailing service used, typically ranging from $10 to $50.
  • Travel Expenses: If an in-person biometrics appointment is required, there may be associated travel costs. These expenses can vary based on the distance to the USCIS office and the mode of transportation.

Other Possible Costs

During the marriage green card application process, several additional expenses may arise beyond the primary filing fees. These costs can vary based on individual circumstances and specific requirements. Understanding these potential expenses can help you better prepare for the financial aspects of the green card process.

Translation and Document Certification Costs

  • Translation Fees: If any of your supporting documents, such as birth certificates or marriage certificates, are in a language other than English, they must be translated by a certified translator. Translation fees can range from $20 to $50 per page.
  • Document Certification Fees: Certain official documents may require certification to be accepted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Certification fees can vary but typically cost around $10 to $50 per document.

Travel and Shipping Expenses

  • Travel Expenses: Attending a green card interview or biometrics appointment may require travel. Costs can include transportation, accommodation, and meals, depending on the distance and duration of the travel. Travel expenses can range from $50 to $1,000 or more.
  • Shipping Fees: Mailing your application package and supporting documents to USCIS involves shipping costs. Using a reliable courier service for tracking can cost between $10 and $50.

Expedited Processing Fees

  • Expedited Processing: In some cases, you may need faster processing of your application. While USCIS does not typically offer expedited processing for marriage green cards, certain circumstances might allow for a request. If accepted, expedited processing can incur additional costs, which vary based on the specific service and urgency.

Legal and Miscellaneous Fees

  • Legal Assistance: Hiring an immigration lawyer to guide you through the marriage green card process can significantly ease the application process. Legal fees can range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the complexity of your case.
  • Miscellaneous Fees: Other potential costs include passport photos for your application, passport renewals, and any fees for obtaining additional supporting documents required by USCIS.

UPDATE: USCIS Fee Increase 2024 for Marriage-Based Green Card Cases

In 2024, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a significant increase in several filing fees associated with obtaining a marriage-based green card. These changes impact the overall marriage green card cost and necessitate careful financial planning for applicants. Here’s a detailed look at the fee increases and their implications.

Key USCIS Fee Increases

  1. Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)
    • Previous Filing Fee: $535
    • New Filing Fee: $600
    • Increase: $65
  2. Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
    • Previous Filing Fee: $1,140
    • New Filing Fee: $1,225
    • Increase: $85
  3. Biometrics Fee
    • Previous Fee: $85
    • New Fee: $100
    • Increase: $15
  4. Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization)
    • Previous Filing Fee: Included with I-485
    • New Filing Fee: $410 (if filed separately)
    • Increase: Additional cost if not filed with I-485
  5. Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document)
    • Previous Filing Fee: Included with I-485
    • New Filing Fee: $575 (if filed separately)
    • Increase: Additional cost if not filed with I-485
  6. USCIS Immigrant Fee
    • Previous Fee: $220
    • New Fee: $275
    • Increase: $55

Implications of the Fee Increases

The increase in USCIS filing fees means that the overall cost of obtaining a marriage green card has risen, affecting both the initial application process and any subsequent filings for employment authorization and travel documents. Here are the implications:

  • Higher Initial Costs: The increased filing fees for Forms I-130 and I-485 mean that applicants will need to budget more for the initial application package.
  • Increased Biometrics and Additional Fees: The higher biometrics fee and separate fees for Forms I-765 and I-131 (if not filed with I-485) can add to the overall financial burden.
  • Impact on Legal Assistance: With higher direct government fees, applicants might need to reconsider the cost of hiring an immigration lawyer, which could further increase their overall expenses.
  • Financial Planning: The fee increases highlight the importance of thorough financial planning and saving for potential additional costs, such as medical exam fees, supporting documents, and travel expenses.

Summary of Fees

This summary table outlines the key costs associated with obtaining and renewing a marriage-based green card, both for applicants filing within the United States and those filing from abroad. Additionally, it includes potential expenses that may arise during the application process, such as legal assistance, document certification, translations, and travel costs. Understanding these expenses is crucial for effective financial planning and ensuring a smoother application process.

Financial Planning: The fee increases highlight the importance of thorough financial planning and saving for potential additional costs, such as medical exam fees, supporting documents, and travel expenses.

Conclusion

Understanding the costs involved in the marriage green card application process is essential for effective financial planning. From filing fees to medical examinations and potential legal assistance, budgeting for these expenses ensures a smoother journey to obtaining a green card.

Staying informed about any changes in fees is also crucial. For expert guidance, consider consulting experienced immigration attorneys in DC or a marriage-based green card lawyer. Proper preparation and professional support can significantly enhance your chances of a successful application.

You can also speak with our New Orleans immigration lawyer for knowledgeable, individualised legal support specific to your circumstances about immigration.