Many green card applicants asked me how to pay the EB2 NIW fees to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).
The answer can be found in the official source: the USCIS website. In this article I will provide a summary of what you can find there, and also the relevant links to the source.
Recap: How much is the EB2 NIW process going to cost you?
In this article, we are referring specifically to the government fees. And more specifically, to the I-140 and I-485 fees.
There is a specific blog post about EB2 NIW costs, so I will not repeat everything here. As of 2022 the I-140 fee is $700 (check the updated information here) and the I-485 fee is $1,140 (check the updated info here). Overall, the whole EB-2 NIW process can cost between $2,000 to upwards of $10,000, if lawyers are hired.
1 – Paying USCIS from the United States
First of all, you should never send cash to USCIS.
This is the easy part. If you are already in the US, your case is relatively easy. USCIS accepts different forms of payment:
- Personal Checks
- Money Orders. You can get a money order from the US Postal Service (USPS) for a small fee.
- Credit card payments (only for certain cases – see below)
Payment from US to USCIS using personal checks and money orders
The USCIS accepts these forms of payment as long as they are issued by a US financial institution and must be payable in US dollars (USD). The check or money order should be made payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”, without using other acronyms. Once they receive it, they will convert the check into an electronic funds transfer (EFT) and money will be withdrawn from your account in about 24 hours after they process it. The image below shows an example of check that simulates a check to pay the I-140 form.
Payment from US to USCIS using credit cards
To be able to pay by credit card, your application must be going to a lockbox or service center.
Currently, as of September 2022, only I-140 with premium processing (rare situations) or concurrent adjustment of status (I-485) are eligible for credit card payments. To use credit cards, they must be issued by a US bank.
Form G-1450 can be used to request this method of payment, and be mailed together with the form to be paid for to the lockbox or service center where that form is going.
2 – Paying USCIS from outside the United States
This is a tricky situation because guidelines are less clear. First let’s see what you should NOT do:
- You should not send cash. Again, you should never send cash to USCIS
- Western Union or Paypal transfers are not accepted by USCIS. They clarified this on a tweet a few years ago after scams proliferated
So…how should you pay USCIS from abroad? There are two routes you can use.
Payment from abroad: use relative or friend route for I-140 fee
If you have a family member or friend who is already living in the United States, ask them to help you for the I-140 fee payment. This may be strange but it is probably the easiest method. You need to ask them to either buy a money order in USPS or make a check that you can use (if they have a US bank account). In summary, go to the methods described above for paying from the US and you can benefit from them.
Payment from abroad: contact your US Embassy or Consulate
The official instructions for payment on the I-140 website say that “If you live outside the United States, contact the nearest US Embassy or US Consulate for instructions on the method of payment”.
I could find examples of how a consulate deals with this issue. For instance, the US Consulate in Warsaw, Poland directs applicants to pay in cash or credit card in the consulate itself.
Payment from abroad: what if you cannot find a solution? A creative solution
Step #1 : Open a Wise account
Wise (previously know as TransferWise) is a money transfer entity that I have personally used to transfer money between US and Europe and I recommended it. You can find plenty of information about its reliability online. Keep in mind that this suggestion is not sponsored by them and I do not get any economic benefit from it.
Step #2: Obtain your US routing and account numbers
Step#3: Use an online tool to make and print checks
There are websites (or apps for the phone) out there that allow you to make checks with your bank information. Use the Wise bank numbers that you collected earlier to make a check. Make sure the check contains your name and address as USCIS is known for wanting them printed out (even though it is not legally mandatory). Print it – a regular printer will do! buy security paper to print it on it.
Step #4: Use this check to pay your USCIS form
Enclose this check in your petition as you would a traditional check. Theoretically, this trick should work. Especially, considering that USCIS will not actually deposit this check. They will instead initiate an EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) using the bank account numbers printed in the check. In your case, these are the ones from your Wise account.