New Immigrant Visa Fee Announced

It was recently announced that, beginning February 1, 2013, a $165 Immigrant Visa DHS Domestic Processing Fee (USCIS Immigrant Fee) will be collected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This fee only applies to green card applicants who are applying for immigrant visas at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas. Those filing for adjustment of status (form I-485) from within the United States will not be affected.

New Immigrant Visa Fee Reimburses USCIS

The USCIS incurs costs for its part in the issuance of immigrant visas. Although immigrant visas are issued by U.S. consulates, which are under the U.S. Department of State (DOS), parts of the process fall to the USCIS. The USCIS must maintain and eventually ship approved immigrant petitions to the DOS. Once new immigrants enter the United States based upon the issuance of the immigrant visa at a consular post abroad, the USCIS produces and ships to the Permanent Resident (I-551) cards to the permanent residents. The USCIS handles approximately 432,000 immigrant visa cases each year, for which it has not received remuneration. The fee will help to compensate the USCIS for its role in the process.

Fee Collection Delays to Establish Procedures

This USCIS Immigrant Fee was announced on September 24, 2010 in a final rule published in the Federal Register and was intended to take effect on November 23, 2010. USCIS did not collect this new fee during the past 2 years because it was developing procedures for the payment of the fee in conjunction with the DOS.

Only Applicants for Immigrant Visas Affected

It is important for our readers to understand that the majority of applicants for green cards do not have to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee. As mentioned above, this fee does not apply to those filing for adjustment of status to permanent residence (form I-485) in the United States. Only individuals who apply for their immigrant visas abroad will be required to pay this additional fee to reimburse the USCIS for their portion of the work in that process.

Fees to be Collected Online

The USCIS is attempting to simplify the collection of this new fee and will take payments online via credit card, debit card, and U.S. checking accounts. If the green card applicant cannot make this payment, another individual will be able to make the online payment using the applicant’s information including a case identification number.

If Fees are Not Paid

The USCIS has explained that, if the new fee is not paid before the intending immigrant enters the United States with an immigrant visa, the green card (I-551) will not be mailed. This can result a number of legal difficulties, including problems with proving work authorization to employers in the United States. Although not stated, such individuals likely will have to file a request for the plastic green card (form I-90), which carries a much higher fee.

Adoptions Do Not Require New Fee – For Now

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas has decided to exempt from this new fee, prospective adoptive parents whose children are seeking admission to the United States under the Orphan Process or Hague Adoption Process. This decision in meant to show that these adoptions are in the U.S. public interest, but the exemption may only be temporary. The USCIS’s next fee study will include a proposal for this fee for overseas adoptions, so the USCIS Immigrant Fee may be imposed on adoption cases in the future.


The Murthy Law Firm understands that the USCIS is a fee-funded organization that runs most of its operations from filing fees collected from those seeking immigration benefits for themselves, their family members, or their employees. Since the USCIS is bearing a portion of the cost of handling immigrant visa cases, it is reasonable that they seek reimbursement from applicants. It is our hope that, through USCIS’s transformation and digital conversion initiative, it will be possible for the USCIS to reduce or at least hold filing fees at their current levels. Filing fees are a significant burden on many of those seeking to immigrate. MurthyDotCom readers will be informed of future changes to USCIS and DOS fees and provided with timely updates.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.