AUTHOR:  Harry J. Joe

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced on December 12, 2012 that effective February 1, 2013, all foreign nationals who receive an immigrant visa package issued by the United States Consulate or Embassy abroad will be required to pay an “immigrant fee” for the issuance of the new permanent resident card or “green card.” This new payment  is in addition to the immigrant visa application processing fees paid to the National Visa Center and to the Consulate or Embassy abroad, but does not apply to immigrant children who are entering the United States under an inter-country adoption program.

Failure to pay the new “immigrant fee” will not preclude the admissibility of the foreign national with the immigrant visa package nor will it affect his or her permanent resident status after entry Until such payment has been made, however, the new permanent resident card will not be processed and issued. Newly arriving immigrants who do not make the required payment will be admitted and provided with an I-94 Arrival and Departure Record card, evidencing their permanent resident status, but such document will be valid for only one year. Upon expiration, the permanent resident card will be the only available evidence of lawful permanent resident status.

In its announcement, the USCIS encourages new immigrants to make the required payment after he or she has received the immigrant visa package from the United States Consulate or Embassy abroad and prior to being admitted into the United States. The payment must be made online through the USCIS website. The immigrant fee can be paid directly by the immigrant or by a third party on his or her behalf.  The online payment can be drawn from a checking account maintained at a U.S. bank or from a debit or credit card.