Becoming a US Citizen Isn’t Cheap!

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

Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Don’t get me started. A friend of mine is applying right now and I feel so bad for her :-(

  2. rossj says:

    I know someone that has been trying to become a citizen for 10 years now. He has spent so much money and has been scammed so many times. If you think about it, illegal immigrants are such an easy target for these people, because they will never report the incident to the police. I do give the guy credit though, he works really hard and still tries to get his green card even though he’s had so much trouble.

  3. Roy T says:

    It’s no wonder there are so many people enter this country illegally. The cost, time, and red tape required to do it legally is just too darn much. Our government will never admit to how completely messed up the immigration process has become. They would rather waste great sums of money attempting to “secure our borders” (a task that is absolutely and irrefutably impossible) than to recognize that the real root cause of the problems is a grossly inefficient and messed up system for immigration. There are additional factors that exacerbate the problems and the associated costs, but addressing those is too much for a post here.

    • Kris T. says:

      Agreed. And the trouble immigrants have to go through to try to legalize their status just shows us how much our government, our society generally look down on immigrants, even though immigrants have made this country what it is.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I immigrated to the US because of an academic job offer (I’m a professor). After some time, my employer sponsored us for green cards, and in December, we will have had green cards for three years. I had somehow gotten a bit confused, and had it in my head that we needed to wait 7 years from the time we got the green cards; reading this article and double-checking the USCIS website, I’ve learned the time required is only 5 years. You’ve saved us two years!

  5. Stephanie says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that we had the best immigration lawyer. I asked for recommendations on a list of Canadians working in the US. I got dozens of responses – and they all recommended the same lawyer. We went with him, and he was terrific. He was also very reasonably priced. He took the anxiety out of the process – of course, he couldn’t guarantee the result, but at least I was confident in his work. Everything was done on time, no forms were missed, and he was completely professional. I was so pleased that I recommended him to my employer, and a few other people have used him too. (As a very large academic institution, my employer often runs international searches, to find great professors from any place.) He has never yet lost a case, in over a dozen years of practice. I am not advertising – I don’t work for the guy. And I don’t want to post his name or contact info – I don’t want to look like I’m shilling for anyone. But if anyone does want a recommendation for a terrific immigration lawyer, feel free to contact me. I had a bad one initially, and i know how awful that is. This guy made all the difference. My email is [email protected].

  6. Eva says:

    What about illegal immigrants?

    • proog says:

      If they can’t pay, then they should go back. My tax $ should support the American people, not people coming here illegally. Sort if that offends some!

      • marissa says:

        you have a right to your oppinon but my dad lived here and found a way to pay his taxes. and yeah thats what we want to do. i want to bust my hump at work to support the lazy americans that were born into this freedom and take it for granted by sitting on their butt and collect welfare to buy Iphones and going to strip clubs while they have kids that are starving at home. i rather help those who come here to work hard and try to have a better life.

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