I-485 Fee: Understanding the Costs for Adjusting Your Status

Applying for lawful permanent residence in the United States is a process that involves various forms, procedures, and fees. One critical step for applicants within the U.S. is submitting Form I-485, the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form serves as a request to change an individual’s immigration status to that of a permanent resident. The processing of this form is managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and with it comes an associated fee which is crucial for applicants to understand.

The fee structure for Form I-485 is clearly delineated by the USCIS to ensure applicants are aware of the financial requirements involved in the application process.

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Most applicants encounter a government filing fee alongside additional costs for biometric services, such as fingerprinting. As of early 2023, the standard filing fee for the form is set at $1,140, while the biometrics fee adds an extra $85 to the total cost. Applicants must ensure these fees are paid correctly and in the appropriate format, which may include options such as credit cards, checks, or money orders.

Applicants have various resources at their disposal to accurately calculate and remit the necessary fees. The USCIS Fee Calculator is a tool designed to help applicants determine the exact amount due, taking into account their specific circumstances and any additional forms that may be required, such as a work permit or advance parole documents. Ensuring the correct fee amount is included with the filing package is essential, as it facilitates a smoother processing of the application and helps avoid delays or rejections due to financial discrepancies.

Current I-485 Filing Fees

The I-485 application fee is structured to vary based on the applicant’s eligibility category, with standard fees applying to most cases.

Standard Fees

The standard filing fee for the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, is required from most applicants. This fee covers the cost of processing the application by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Fee Variations by Eligibility Category

Fee variations arise depending on the applicant’s specific eligibility category. For instance:

  • Children under 14 years old, filing with the I-485 application of at least one parent, benefit from a reduced fee.
  • Certain applicants may not need to pay a biometrics fee as part of their I-485 filing, while others must include this additional cost.

Fee Waiver Eligibility

Individuals unable to afford the filing fee for Form I-485 may seek a fee waiver if they meet strict eligibility criteria and can provide the necessary documentation to support their claim.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Income Level: Applicants must demonstrate that their household income is at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • Financial Hardship: They may qualify if they can prove that paying the fee would cause financial hardship, such as unexpected medical bills or emergencies.
  • Benefits Received: Those who are receiving means-tested benefits, such as food stamps or Medicaid, are often eligible for a fee waiver.

Required Documentation

  • Proof of Income: Pay stubs, tax returns, and employment letters are commonly used to establish income level.
  • Proof of Benefits: If applicable, documents showing the applicant’s receipt of means-tested benefits must be provided.
  • Hardship Evidence: In cases of financial hardship, relevant bills, expense records, or statements explaining the situation may be required.

Biometric Services Fees

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires a biometric services fee for certain immigration applications, including Form I-485, which is integral to the adjustment of status process.

Biometrics Fee Overview

The biometric services fee is mandatory for applicants who undergo biometric screenings as part of their immigration application process. As of the latest information, the fee is $85. This fee covers the cost of fingerprinting, photographing, and the collection of electronic signatures, which are crucial for background checks and identity verification.

Applicants Subject to Biometrics Fee

Not every individual who applies for an adjustment of status is required to pay the biometrics fee. Applicants over the age of 14 and under 79 are generally required to submit this fee with Form I-485. Certain applicants might be exempt, such as those applying on the basis of specific categories of eligibility, such as Afghan special immigrants. It’s essential to examine the specific instructions for Form I-485 to determine whether the biometrics fee applies to one’s situation.

Payment Methods and Procedures

When filing Form I-485, applicants have several payment methods available. They must ensure the payment complies with the USCIS guidelines.

Accepted Forms of Payment

  • Credit or Debit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted.
  • Checks: Personal checks are acceptable and should be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—not “USDHS” or “DHS.”
  • Money Orders: These must also be made payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • Bank Account Withdrawal: Applicants can provide U.S. bank routing and checking account numbers for a direct bank withdrawal.

Payment Submission Process

  1. Online Payment: For those paying the USCIS Immigrant Fee, this must be done online using a compatible browser with valid payment information.
  2. Filing Package Inclusion: Include the payment amount calculated via the USCIS Fee Calculator with the filing package.
  3. Combining Forms: If submitting Form I-485 with Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) and/or Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document), no additional fee is required beyond the I-485 fee.
  4. Transaction Limits: There is a daily transaction limit for credit cards, to the tune of $24,999.99 per card per day.

Adjustments and Changes to Fees

The fees associated with the I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, are subject to change by USCIS to cover operational costs and provide better services.

Historical Fee Changes

Historically, the cost to file an I-485 form has seen several adjustments. In recent years, the fee for this form increased to $1,225, which includes charges for biometric services. This fee adjustment was designed to account for the expenses related to processing these applications and maintaining service levels within USCIS.

Future Fee Adjustments

The USCIS has proposed further fee increases that would take the cost of filing an I-485 form to $1,540. This proposed change is part of a larger effort to fully recover operational costs and improve the overall customer experience. The anticipated adjustments also aim to ensure sustainable service levels for processing employment-based visa programs and other immigration benefits.

Additional Costs and Considerations

When applying for an adjustment of status via Form I-485, applicants encounter various fees beyond the base filing charge. It’s crucial to budget for these additional costs to ensure a smooth application process.

Lawyer and Consultant Fees

Legal representation is often sought during the adjustment of status process. Attorney fees vary widely based on the complexity of the case, geographic location, and the attorney’s expertise. Lawyer fees might range from a few thousand dollars up to several thousand. Some lawyers charge a flat fee for the entire process, while others may bill hourly. Applicants should also consider the possibility of costs arising from the need for any legal consultations, even if they do not retain a lawyer for the full process. It’s advisable to obtain quotes from multiple legal professionals to assess the expected cost.

Possible Additional Charges

Applicants should be mindful of the potential for additional fees, such as:

  • Biometrics Fee: Required for most applicants, adding $85 to the total cost.
  • Translation Services: Necessary for documents not in English, with fees depending on the document’s length and language complexity.
  • Document Fees: Acquisition of certain documents, like birth certificates or police clearances from abroad, may carry their own charges.
  • Travel Expenses: If an applicant needs to travel to attend an interview or biometrics appointment, they must account for transportation and lodging expenses.
  • Postage and Photocopying: Shipping forms, evidence, and other materials can accumulate small but notable expenses.

Applicants may encounter various other fees depending on their unique circumstances or any additional forms that may be required in conjunction with their I-485 application. They must review current USCIS guidelines, as fees can be updated regularly.