At one time or another, we all take our American citizenship for granted. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that many people are struggling right now to become a part of the United States. Aside from the travel costs associated with reaching the US, the process of becoming an American citizen can be quite expensive. From obtaining a visa in order to initially enter the country to filing the final citizenship application, the costs can be taxing for many immigrants. The costs of filing applications, preparing for tests, and taking citizenship tests can add up to a small fortune. Here is a look at the major steps and the accompanying costs:
Obtaining a Visa
If you are coming into the US and planning to permanently remain in the country, you need to obtain an immigrant visa prior to entering the country. The majority of people come to the US using a work visa, school visa, or family member visa. Including the petition and filing fees, the cost of obtaining one of these visas ranges from $799-$1880, depending on the reason for the requested visa. While family member visas are the least expensive, work-related and orphan (adoption) visas are the most expensive. The only free visas are given to special Iraqi and Afghan immigrants who have refugee status. These immigrant visas are the first step to becoming a citizen and can potentially take a long time to acquire. In order to apply for an immigrant visa, a US citizen, US permanent resident, or potential employer must sponsor you.
Getting Your Green Card
After you have obtained your visa, getting your green card is the next step to becoming an American Citizen. A green card signifies that the holder is a permanent resident of the United States and can legally live and work in the US. In most cases, a green card is initially given for two years on a conditional basis; following these two years, the holder may be able to get a green card that only requires renewal every ten years. However, getting this green card is not cheap. With three separate phases of the application, applying for a green card costs about $2,485. In addition, many immigrants hire an immigration attorney to ensure all forms are filled out properly and to aid in all aspects of the process. The attorney fee is usually around $4,000. In total, if you hire an attorney, you’ll pay about $6,500 for your green card.
Applying for American Citizenship
You’ve lived in the United States for at least five years, and now you want to apply for American citizenship. For a citizenship application, individuals have to pay $595; also, there is an additional fingerprint fee of $80. If you are an entrepreneur immigrating to the United States to set up a business, your application for citizenship fee is around $2,850. Many immigrants also spend money on test preparation materials to ensure they pass the test.
If we add up all the various fees required to come to the US and obtain citizenship, the total falls somewhere between $4,000 and $11,300. Most people end up spending between $6,000 and $8,000.
Despite the high costs of becoming an American citizen, in 2007 the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) raised the costs of applying for citizenship, permanent residency, and other immigration services. However, recognizing that these changes would impose a great financial burden on families with several children, the USCIS reduced the fees for children under age 14. Though the monetary costs can often stretch immigrants thin, people continue to apply in hopes of becoming American citizens.
Published or updated September 18, 2011.