The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that, beginning February 1, 2013, the agency will collect a $165 Immigrant Visa Department of Homeland Security Domestic Processing Fee (USCIS Immigrant Fee) from individuals who have been issued immigrant visas by the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and are applying for admission to the United States. The new fee is in addition to fees charged by the DOS associated with an individual’s immigrant visa application.
Who Needs to Pay the Fee?
Any individual who, on or after February 1, 2013, receives an immigrant visa package from a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad (including Canada and Mexico) must pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee. Prospective adoptive parents whose child(ren) is(are) seeking admission to the United States under the Orphan or Hague Process will be exempt from the USCIS Immigrant Fee.
Purpose of the New Fee
The USCIS Immigrant Fee will cover the cost of processing, filing, and maintaining the immigrant visa package, as well as producing and mailing of the required documents performed in the United States after immigrant visa holders receive their visa packages from the DOS at overseas consulates and are admitted to the United States. Implementing procedures for the USCIS Immigrant Fee (established in the USCIS Fee Schedule, which became effective in November 2010) have only recently been developed in conjunction with the DOS.
Fee Collection Process
Immigrant visa holders applying for admission to the United States must submit payment of the USCIS Immigrant Fee online at www.Pay.gov after they receive their immigrant visa package from the DOS. They can electronically submit the fee by answering the questions on the USCIS intake page on www.Pay.gov and providing their checking account, debit, or credit card information.
The DOS will issue the applicant:
A USCIS handout that will include the immigrant visa holder's Alien number and Case ID number; and
Instructions on how to submit payment.
Payment should be made before traveling to the United States. Immigrant visa holders should keep a copy of the receipt for their records.
Practical Implications of a Failure to Pay the New Fee
Failure to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee will not directly result in denial of admission to the United States as an immigrant or the loss of status as an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. However, USCIS will not issue a Permanent Residence Card (Form I-551) to an individual who is subject to the USCIS Immigrant Fee until the individual has remitted the fee. Failure to obtain the Form I-551 will make it difficult for the individual to show that he or she has complied with the alien registration requirements and that he or she is authorized to accept employment in the United States or to return to the United States from temporary foreign travel.
Note: This article was published in the December 2012, January 2013 issue of the Immigration eAuthority.