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Suppose a US citizen is married to a foreigner. The foreigner has lived in the US with nonimmigrant G4 status for 18 years. They married four years ago.

The foreign spouse, after retirement, will need to apply for permanent resident status in order to continue living in the US. There appear to be two options, namely, either to apply for adjustment of status while remaining in the US or to leave the US and apply for a spouse visa. The first option requires filing form I-485, which has a $1070 filing fee.

The fees for the visa route seem to add up to considerably less than $1070, but there also seem to be several different fees and it is not clear to me that I've been able to identify them all.

The question is:

What is the difference in total cost between the two routes, and are there significant benefits or risks associated with either route that should be weighed against the costs?

  • Have you considered the costs of leaving and living outside of the US for several months? – littleadv Nov 13 '15 at 17:31
  • @littleadv yes. Upon retirement it is likely that the foreign spouse would want to spend a few months living with parents in a home city with a low cost of living, so these costs may be negligible. – phoog Nov 13 '15 at 21:28
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  • Adjustment of Status will get permanent residency much faster. Since they are in the Immediate Relative category with no wait for visa numbers, I-130 petition and I-485 for Adjustment of Status can be filed concurrently. The two applications will be approved together in a few months, all while staying in the US. Consular processing would require first filing the I-130 petition, wait for a few months for it to be approved, and only then it goes to NVC and the consulate for a few more months, resulting in about a year of time until getting the immigrant visa. Also, they may have trouble visiting the US during this time, so they would have to stay in the home country during this time, or stay in the US in the beginning (assuming they are still in status), and go to the home country during the consulate part.
  • It is true that the cost for Consular Processing is somewhat less than for Adjustment of Status, but it's still expensive. Whereas for AOS it costs $1760 ($535 for I-130 and $1225 for I-485, not counting costs for medical); for Consular Processing you would still pay the $535 for I-130, then I believe there's the immigrant visa application fee of $325, the Affidavit of Support processing fee of $120, and a USCIS immigrant fee of $220 before they will send you your green card, for a total of $1200 (again, not counting costs for medical). Less, but only by a third. That's not considering the cost for travel to and from, and stay in, the home country in the case of Consular Processing.

(Fees updated for Dec 23, 2016.)

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