| Read Time: 4 minutes | Immigration

How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

To receive a green card through your marriage to a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident you must prepare personal documents and government applications. You also must prepare yourself financially. Your green card application comes with multiple forms and fees, and you may also have to pay for copies of personal documents to submit with your application.  How much does a green card cost? A green card can cost thousands. The total cost depends on the specific facts of your case, but there are some broadly applicable costs you should consider as you prepare to change your immigration status. How Much Are the Application Fees? Your green card application is not reduced to just one form. To receive your green card, you must submit multiple forms to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and other government agencies. The USCIS receives the vast majority of its funding from application and petition fees, so submission of many of your green card forms costs money. Many petitions and applications for immigration benefits can be time sensitive, so you should make sure you have access to a substantial amount of money before you start the filing process. Your green card application fees could total up to $1,845 or more, depending on your circumstances, including fees for: Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative; Biometric services for U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse; Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (for applicants already in the U.S.); Biometric services for spouse seeking green card; Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-864 Affidavit of Support;  Immigrant fee (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (if applicable); Form I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (if applicable); and Form I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable). If you must submit to a medical examination for your green card, you have to pay for an exam with a USCIS-approved civil surgeon. While prices vary, a civil surgeon examination could cost between $200 and $400 dollars. If not already included in your exam, you need to pay additional money for any required vaccinations you have not received. An experienced immigration attorney can determine what application fees apply to you and help you locate any necessary supplemental services.  Are There Necessary Costs Outside of My Application Fees? Your application fees are not the only costs associated with your green card application. Your green card application requires you to submit multiple supplemental documents about your life including: Copies of official documents proving your spouse’s citizenship or their lawful permanent resident status; A copy of your government-issued ID with photo; A copy of your marriage certificate; Copies of the legal terminations of any prior marriages for you and your spouse (if applicable); Financial statements; Two identical passport-style photos in color of you and your spouse (separately);  Birth certificates for any children you had with your spouse; Any other documents that prove you have an ongoing marital union; Certified police and court records regarding all your criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (regardless of the final disposition); Inspection and admission or inspection and parole documentation; Proof that you have continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; and Proof your spouse has continuously maintained lawful status since they arrived in the U.S. If you do not already have these documents, you might have to request them from government agencies and other institutions. Your requests for copies of these documents may come with fees. Also, your application for a green card may require you or your spouse to travel, and you should prepare for those costs early.  Attorney Fees In addition to the fees you need to pay the government, you may incur attorney fees. Although you can attempt to file your application on your own, it is easy to make mistakes that may jeopardize your status.  An immigration attorney is an invaluable resource when applying for a green card. They can help you gather all the documents you need, fill out your forms, and file your application. They can also help you prepare for your green card interview. Attorneys may charge by the hour, or they may prepare your immigration application for a flat fee. Or you can take advantage of Vantage Group Legal’s subscription legal services for a low monthly rate. Contact an Attorney Right Away The financial burden of applying for your green card is less overwhelming if you plan early and efficiently. There are many moving parts to a green card application, and most of those parts cost money individually. It is important to know which parts you do and do not need. An immigration attorney can help you streamline your immigration application process so you do not pay unnecessary fees or suffer the financial blow of an unexpected expense.  Vantage Group Legal Services boasts a network of highly experienced and reputable immigration attorneys. Our network attorneys stick by you through the duration of your case  and respond to your needs quickly. You will likely have many legal questions and needs as you and your spouse seek to build a life in the United States. We are here to help you. Contact us online or call us at 773-938-4747 for a free consultation. 

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 5 minutes | Immigration

What Documents Do I Need for a Marriage Green Card?

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you can apply for a green card. A green card application requires many documents—documents about your life that you must locate and present to the government, and documents the government provides for you to fill out. The United States government wants an in-depth illustration of who you are personally and professionally before it grants a green card. This article can give you an idea of what the government expects from you and how to prepare for your green card application.  What Documents Should I Have Before I Apply for a Green Card? The green card application process can be lengthy and involves many steps. To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, you should gather as many necessary documents as possible before you start filing forms. What Your Spouse Must Provide Generally, your official green card application process begins with your spouse’s Form I-130 petition to the government. This petition establishes your marriage relationship with your spouse and lets the United States government know you are eligible for legal permanent resident status.  Your spouse must prove their legal permanent resident or citizen status In their petition, your spouse must prove that they are a United States citizen or a lawful permanent resident with the following documents: A copy of their birth certificate from a civil authority; A copy of their naturalization certificate from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); A copy of form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad from a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate; A copy of their unexpired U.S. passport; An original U.S. consular officer statement that verifies your spouse is a U.S. citizen with a valid passport;  A front and back copy of their Permanent Resident Card;  Copies of their passport biographic page that shows admission as a lawful permanent resident; or Other documents issued by USCIS or INS that prove permanent resident status. If your spouse is a U.S. citizen who cannot locate their official citizenship documents, USCIS offers alternatives for proving their status.  Your spouse must prove they legally married you Your spouse’s petition must include proof of your legal marriage. Proof of your legal marriage to your spouse includes: A copy of your marriage certificate; Copies of the legal terminations of any prior marriages for you and your spouse (if applicable); Two identical passport-style photos in color of you and your spouse (separately);  Any documents that show joint property ownership; Lease documents showing you and your spouse live at the same residence; Documents evidencing joint financial resources; Birth certificates for any children you had together; Affidavits from others who can affirm the validity of your marriage; and Any other documents that prove you have an ongoing marital union. The USCIS has many specific rules regarding your passport-style photos, so you and your spouse should read the Form I-130 instructions carefully before submitting documents.  The list of documents to prove your legal marital status is long. The marriage certificate, proof of legal terminations of prior marriages (if any), and passport photos are required for every spouse petition, but the USCIS encourages you to include one or more of the other documents listed above to prove you have a bona fide marriage. The United States government is very wary of potential marriage fraud for immigration status, so the more documents you have to prove the validity of your marriage, the better.  Your spouse must prove that your travel in and out the United States has been legal Your spouse’s petition must include your I-94 documentation. Your I-94 is a document from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol that proves your lawful admissions into the U.S. after trips abroad. You can get copies of your I-94 travel history from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.  What You Must Provide The Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status is your main green card application. With your application, you must submit many documents including: A copy of your birth certificate; A copy of your government-issued ID with a photograph; Inspection and admission or inspection and parole documentation; Documentation of your immigrant category, including Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s Form I-130;  Certified police and court records regarding all your criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (regardless of the final disposition); Proof that you have continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; and Proof your spouse has continuously maintained lawful status since they arrived in the U.S. If you were previously deported or deemed inadmissible for entry, you will likely have to file additional forms with your application. There are also certain immigration statuses that require additional forms. You should check the list of initial evidence needed for green card applications to determine what additional forms you need (if any). An experienced immigration attorney can determine what you need to complete your green card application and reduce complications in your application process.  What Applications Do I Need to File to Receive a Green Card? In your list of documents for a green card through marriage are many petitions and applications. Generally, the applications and petitions you or your spouse need to file include: Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative (filled out and submitted by your citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse); Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (submitted by you); Form I-797 to prove receipt of your spouse’s petition; Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form DS-261 Online Choice of Address and Agent (for applicants outside of the U.S.); Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record; Form I-508 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (if applicable); and Form I-212 Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal (if applicable). A Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record is for public health reasons and must be completed and sealed by a USCIS-approved doctor...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 5 minutes | Immigration

Getting a Green Card Through Marriage

Building a life with your spouse brings excitement and joy. If you immigrated to the United States to be with your spouse, you might feel the exhilaration of adventure, but you might also feel anxiety about where you will live and how you will work. You can apply for a green card if you married a United States citizen or legal permanent resident. A green card gives you the right to live and work permanently in the United States. With a green card, you also have more legal protections than a visa holder. How Do I Get a Green Card After I Marry? Of all the factors that can make you eligible for a green card, marriage can place your application high on the priority list. To receive a green card, you must provide the U.S. government with information about your history, financial resources/needs, marriage, and health. How to Prepare for the Green Card Application Process When you begin the process to obtain a green card, you should have the following documents ready for submission with your application forms: A copy of your birth certificate; A copy of your marriage certificate; Proof that you continuously maintained lawful status since you arrived in the U.S.; A copy of your government-issued ID (containing a photograph); Two passport-style photographs; Certified police and court records of your entire criminal charge, arrest, and conviction history (regardless of the final disposition); and  Documents of inspection and admission, or inspection and parole. If you can no longer locate or access your birth certificate, you can provide other proof of your birth or proof that your certificate is unavailable or nonexistent. Acceptable alternative evidence of your birth includes church records, school records, and medical records. Depending on your current immigration status, you may need to gather additional documentation to submit with your green card application.  How Do I Apply for a Green Card?  Your request for a green card not only requires identification information and many documents about your history, it also requires many government application forms. One of the first applications the government wants when you seek a green card through marriage is Form I-130. An I-130 form is also called a Petition for Alien Relative, and it is for your spouse to fill out. The petition gives information about you and your spouse, and it establishes your relationship with your spouse.  During the application process, you may need a medical examination to prove you are admissible to the United States. The U.S. government requires examinations for public health purposes. A designated “civil surgeon” must perform your examination and fill out government-issued paperwork regarding the exam. Your exam form must be dated within 60 days of your green card application. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you undergo this exam as close as possible to the time you file your application, so your results remain valid during adjudication.  Generally, your main application to become a green card holder (also called a lawful permanent resident) is Form I-485. Form I-485 is also called an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This application has many in-depth questions about your background, personal history, employment history, criminal history, immigration history, and financial needs. You must submit multiple personal documents and additional government forms with this application, and you must pay filing fees.  What If I Am Not in the United States? If you and your United States citizen spouse are not in the U.S., your spouse must send their Form I-130 petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you are. Your spouse’s petition goes through consular processing. You must also file forms from the U.S. Department of State for an Immigrant Visa. If the USCIS approves your spouse’s petition, they send it to the Department of State’s National Visa Center. The National Visa Center lets you know when you need to submit supporting documents and when you need to pay immigrant visa processing fees.  Once a visa is available for your priority date, the consular office schedules you for an interview and decides your eligibility for a visa. If the consular office grants you a visa, you receive a visa packet and you must pay an immigrant fee. You cannot open your visa packet. Upon arrival in the United States, Customs and Border Protection takes your packet. Customs and Border Protection also inspects you to determine if they can admit you as a lawful permanent resident. If Customs and Border Protection admits you as a lawful permanent resident, you should receive your green card within 45 days. While you wait for your green card to arrive, you have the right to live and work in the United States.   How Long Do I Have to Wait for a Decision About My Green Card? The vast majority of immigration applications take up to eight months to process. Your application may take longer, depending on the nature of your marriage.  Your ability to obtain a green card depends partly on whether a green card is immediately available during application processing. If you married a United States citizen, an unlimited number of green cards are immediately available. If your spouse is a legal permanent resident, you may have to wait longer in line for an available green card. Spouses of legal permanent residents are subject to preference categories for green cards. According to the preference categories, spouses of legal permanent residents take second preference after adult, unmarried children of citizens.  What Do I Do While I Wait? While you wait for a decision on your green card application, follow all directions you receive from the government. You must also make sure you maintain a continuous and lawful presence in the United States. If you need to travel temporarily while you wait, you need to apply for a travel document first. You can also check the status of your application online while you wait.  What If I Have Not Received My Green Card Approval and I Need to Work? The...

Continue Reading