Applying for citizenship can be a long and expensive process. Often, the costs can vary wildly based on your own unique circumstances.
The actual amount you’ll pay will be based on a combination of government filing fees, postage, evidence gathering costs, and attorney fees.
While it’s entirely possible to finish the process without the help of an attorney, filing for naturalization with an attorney is generally a good idea. Your attorney should be able to give you answers about the process, and about government procedures at your local USCIS office, that you can’t find anywhere else.
It is important that you take into account the complexity of the citizenship process. If you mess up even the smallest detail, you may have your application denied or postponed. This would mean that the total cost of your application can double or even triple if you have to reapply.
Are you ready to apply for citizenship?
The cost of applying for U.S. citizenship will depend greatly on whether or not you are eligible to begin the naturalization process.
In some cases, you may already be a U.S. citizen and not even know it. For more information check out our article: Who is Already a U.S. Citizen?
If you are not already a U.S. citizen, then the next step will be to determine whether you are eligible to begin applying for U.S. citizenship.
Having a green card (permanent residency) can lower these costs considerably. If, however, you haven’t yet obtained permanent residency these costs can rise quickly.
If you are not a legal permanent resident:
For those without legal permanent residence, filing for a green card is a necessary first step in the naturalization process. However, just getting a green card can be quite expensive.
For example, you can expect to pay around $5,000-$7000 total to get a family-based green card. Once you have obtained this green card, and meet the other requirements to begin naturalization, the next step is to pay the fees outlined in the section below.
If you are a legal permanent resident who is ready to begin the naturalization process:
If you already have a green card and you are eligible to begin the naturalization process, then you can expect to pay around $1,500 – $2,600 to complete the documents necessary for naturalization. These costs are outlined below:
|Amount||Type of expense||More information|
|$725 ($640 filing fee plus $85 biometric fee).||Government fees||In most cases, government fees are required. There is no negotiating these fees. These are what the U.S. Federal Government requires you to pay before they will even look at your application. If, however, you are 75 years of age or older, you are not charged a biometric fee. This makes the total fee $640. Also, there is no fee required for military applicants filing under Section 328 and 329 of the INA.|
|$1,500 – $2,000||Attorney fees.||This will vary depending on the complexity of your case, your location, the experience of the attorney,|
|$100-$400||Document preparation, translations, etc.||Your application will require that you put together certain evidence. You must submit all of this evidence in its original language. You must also provide an English translation if applicable. In certain situations, you will also have to submit multiple copies of these documents.|
Other Cost Considerations
Regardless of whether you are a legal permanent resident or not, factors like a criminal history or a negative immigration history can make the process much more complex, and therefore more expensive.
In these cases, you must submit additional forms, which require more government fees, more of your attorney’s time, and more prepared documents.
Given these potential expenses, it is crucial to know whether you want to apply for citizenship in the first place. For a comparison of the benefits of naturalization to green card status, check out this article.
Are there ways to lower the cost?
Certainly. In fact you can save yourself a great deal of money if you don’t hire an attorney to do the work for you. However, you need to realize the value an attorney can bring to the table.
An experienced immigration attorney is familiar with the system. They can help you avoid timely delays and potential errors that may lead to a rejected application.
In the end, hiring an attorney to do it right the first time can save you from the repeated expenses of messing it up on your own.
You will fill out the form, gather the evidence, etc. Once you have done your work, your attorney will look over your packet and make sure that everything is in order before you send it to USCIS. Often, attorneys will charge you a much lower rate if you are willing to do this work yourself.
While becoming a naturalized citizen can be a rewarding experience, the process of naturalization can be expensive and riddled with complexity. For most naturalization cases, hiring an experienced immigration lawyer is almost always the best option to save you headaches and a lot of money.