Facing Financial Obstacles in Visa Applications in Chicago: What Solutions Are Available?

The Financial Burden of Visa Applications and Alternative Options

Applying for a U.S. visa is a complicated process that involves many steps, and one of the most surprising aspects for many people is how expensive the visa application process is. The fees to file a visa petition can be hundreds of dollars, and this is often out of reach for many potential applicants who are specifically trying to come to America for a better life and higher earning potential.

How Much Does a Visa Application Cost?

Every visa application has an associated fee, and how much this fee is depends on the type of visa. Visa applications can range from $185 for a non-petition-based nonimmigrant visa, such as a B visa, to $535 for an immigrant petition for a relative. Some visas can be even more than this, and these high fees can put a significant financial strain on those who are trying to apply. There are often other fees involved as well, such as the fees for the biometrics appointment and passport-style photos. To find out how much the fees associated with your visa application could be, talk with an attorney about the type of visa you want to apply for and what else may be involved in the process.

What Is a Fee Waiver?

If you cannot afford to pay the application fee for your visa, you may have the option of applying for a fee waiver. In order to request a fee waiver, you must file a paper application. You must provide a basis for the request which meets the eligibility criteria. Only certain fees are eligible for the waiver program. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Some biometric fees
  • Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • T Visa
  • U visa
  • VAWA self-petition

If your application for a fee waiver is approved, you will not need to pay the fees associated with that service.

What Do You Need to Qualify for a Fee Waiver?

Before you request a fee waiver, it’s important to make sure that the form you are using allows fee waivers. Not all petitions do, but you can find a list of eligible forms on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. You must also meet one of three criteria:

  • You, your spouse, or the person who qualifies as the head of your household and who lives with you is receiving some type of means-tested benefit.
  • The income for your household is less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This changes often to keep up with inflation and rising costs of living, so it’s important to make sure you are looking at the most recent table if you plan on using this option. The Federal Poverty Guidelines are also based on household size, so it’s crucial that you understand who counts as part of your household for this purpose.
  • You are currently experiencing some type of financial difficulty that makes it impossible for you to pay the visa fee. Examples of situations that may qualify under this option are things like unexpected medical bills or other financial emergencies.

You will generally need to provide documentation to show that you fit one of the above categories. For example, showing proof that you receive a means-tested benefit, such as Medicaid or SNAP, would count.

What Happens If My Application for a Fee Waiver Is Denied?

If the application for a fee waiver is denied, you cannot appeal the decision. There may be the opportunity to file a motion to reconsider the decision or reopen the request, but these aren’t common and are rarely successful. If you receive notice that your fee waiver has been denied, it’s best to speak with an immigration attorney about what other options you may have. In some cases, you may be able to apply for a different visa type that has a smaller fee or explore some of the alternative options below.

Alternative Options

If your request for a fee waiver wasn’t approved or you’re using a form that doesn’t qualify for a fee waiver, there are still some alternative options. You may be able to reach out to friends or family for help paying your fee. They may be able to gift or loan you the money, so you can continue with your application. There are also organizations designed to help immigrants and nonimmigrants afford visa fees. An immigration attorney can help connect you to these resources to see if you are eligible for their programs.

Crowdfunding is another option. This is when you ask others to help you pay the fee, and many people contribute what they are able. Eventually, it adds up to the visa fee, and you’re able to continue with your application. Crowdfunding is often done through platforms such as GoFundMe, but you can also do it privately by asking for help from those around you. Lastly, if you have access to a credit card or personal loan, you may be able to leverage this option to pay the fee so that you can pay the money over time in payments instead of all at once in a lump sum.

Applying for a visa can help you gain legal status in the United States and be able to move forward with your life in a new country. But the fees associated with these applications and the immigration process as a whole are often a burden on those applying. Get help with your visa petition and learn more about whether you may be eligible for a fee waiver or other alternatives when you call Gilliam Law at 866-641-7517.


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