The mandatory USCIS filing fees must accompany an application or petition at the time it is filed. If you do not include the filing fee than the case will simply be returned to you and not filed. Here are some pointers for doing filing fees right.
Historically, USCIS accepted only personal checks, money orders or cashier checks. As of recently they have begun accepting credit card payments as well. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure that there is a sufficient balance available in your account to pay for it. I remember one relatively affluent client who had his filing fee bounce because he forgot about a major purchase that he had just made – don’t let this happen to you! If the payment bounces, the packet will simply be returned to you. For this reason, I have usually advised using a money order or cashier’s check. Now that USCIS accepts credit cards, however, that is such a convenient option that it is the approach I now take with clients. Plus, you get frequent flier miles!
Credit card payments are made by submitting the Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. USCIS accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. They will try to process payment only once, so if it does not succeed the packet will be returned as unpayable. It is a good idea to contact your credit card company in advance so that a fraud alert does not prevent the payment from being completed. There is no additional processing cost for paying by credit card.
Payments by check or money order should be made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Do not make them out to USCIS or – worse yet – INS. (Remember that INS doesn’t exist any more).
Whether paying by credit card or one of the traditional methods, you should submit a different payment for each application or petition. With traditional payment methods, USCIS is supposed to accept combined payment, but this often causes confusion. (With credit card payment the rules are very clear that separate payment for each form is required). To make things simple and prevent unnecessary rejection, it is best to simply submit separate payment for each form.
Make sure that your filing fee is at the top of your application packet. For a check or money order, paperclip this to the first document in your packet. We always include a cover letter with our packets, so when using the credit card authorization form this would appear right behind our cover letter.