Beginning on February 1, 2013, new immigrants who receive their permanent residence (or “immigrant visas”) outside of the U.S. must pay to USCIS the new $165 fee. This fee is in addition to what was already paid to the National Visa Center or at the consulate.
This new immigrant fee allegedly covers the costs to USCIS to process, produce, and deliver the LPR card. (It’s interesting that USCIS did not explain why it charges $450 to replace a card that supposedly costs them $165 to produce and deliver.)
Who will pay the fee?
Any immigrant who, as of February 1, 2013, receives an immigrant visa package from a consulate or embassy.
When and how do I pay the new fee?
USCIS suggests paying through its website after receiving the package from the consulate and visa and before traveling to the U.S.
What are the consequences if I don’t pay the fee?
Not many. You’ll still be able to enter the U.S. as a permanent resident, your passport will be stamped showing lawful admission as a permanent resident, but you will not be issued a green card until the fee is paid. Even if you don’t get a green card, you may still renew admission stamp every year at any USCIS office and you may travel, work, and study with the stamped passport.
Jose’s tip: Do not pay the fee on behalf of a child who’ll automatically acquire U.S. citizenship upon admission. Instead invest the $165 on a U.S. passport for the child.