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How Much Does It Cost to Immigrate to the United States?

One of the main reasons immigrants come to the United States is because this is a country that’s strongly associated with economic opportunity. To a certain extent, making a “rags to riches” story come true is easier in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean this can be achieved without spending a single penny. There are real and personal costs associated with immigration, and they can make a significant difference in terms of quality of life.

Visas & Family-Based Immigration

The Immigration and Nationality Act doesn’t address the issue of personal finance. This is left up to regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Things are different for non-immigrant visas because those are managed and issued by the State Department. The only exception is the EB-5 visa. San Diego immigrants should know this program is for immigrant investors who must commit to putting at least $900,000 to work in select regions of the U.S.

With the most common method of immigration, which is family based, there’s an expectation that relatives will take care of living expenses for their immigrant loved ones. In this case, it isn’t necessary for immigrants to arrive with any money in their pockets. They would still be considered to be eligible and admissible even if they’re broke. The same applies for refugees and asylum seekers.

Application Fees & Legal Expenses

Once we get into the real costs of immigration, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say the path from arrival to naturalization can cost more than $10,000 for application fees and legal representation. However, this is just an average that doesn’t take into account special situations such as clearing up legal issues overseas or defending against a deportation order.

Even if everything is in order back home, immigrants may end up spending a lot more than $10,000 in some cases. For example, if we’re talking about a situation in which a foreign worker wants to change his or her H-1B visa status to a green card, the previous visa processing costs and fees will increase considerably, and these tend to be nonrefundable. Another example would be that of a foreigner seeking political asylum while fighting an extradition request in court. The legal fees could add up if the case ends up getting too complex.

Fee Reductions for Special Circumstances

Not all immigrants will pay the full costs of expenses for their form filings and petitions. The fee schedule of the USCIS has a few provisions for applicants who are going through difficult times, particularly asylum seekers and refugees. Special circumstances may merit the granting of a fee reduction, and full waivers of fees are possible when immigrants are living in the U.S. under the 150 percent threshold of the federal poverty level. This usually happens when sponsoring relatives endure negative events that decimate their finances, thus rendering them unable to fully provide for their immigrant loved ones. 

If you need information about any aspect of immigration, make sure to seek the advice of experienced immigration lawyers. San Diego residents should reach out to the trustworthy immigration attorneys at KS Visa Law. We can assist you with a wide variety of immigration-related issues, including those related to family immigration and employment. Call 858-874-0711 today to schedule an appointment.

October 2023