If you are facing a federal immigration case and posted an immigration bond for someone in detention, find out how to get your money refunded.
The bond system is the justice system’s way of ensuring that people don’t stay in jail longer than necessary before a conviction but also fulfill their obligations to the court.
Immigration bonds perform the same function, but they are rapidly changing.
In 2019, The Washington Post reported that ICE held $204 million in bond money. Why such a high figure? Because immigration bond limits are on the rise. Ten years ago, ICE issue bonds of under $10,000. Today, bail regularly clears $50,000.
Back in 2006, the median bond price was $50. By 2008, it grew to $5,000. In 2018, it was $8,000.
With such high figures being bandied about by ICE, you need to know whether you get the money back.
Like all things immigration, it’s complicated. Here’s what you need to know about getting an immigration bond refund.
How the Immigration Bond Refund Process Works
Either ICE or an immigration judge set all immigration bond prices and conditions. In theory, all immigration bonds are refundable.
However, things change according to where you get your bond and whether you meet the conditions. This usually depends on your “risk classification assessment,” which measures both your flight risk and risk to public safety.
If you pay a cash bond, then you get all your money back plus interest. If the bond price means you need to use a surety agent, then you receive a refund of your collateral but not of the fee.
You can learn more about surety bonds on this homepage.
To qualify for an immigration bond refund from ICE, the bonded person must first meet all the attached conditions – and ICE must recognize that they did so. Usually, that means a minimum of attending all the court dates and complying with a removal order, should the court issue one.
Once the case concludes, the refund process begins.
1. ICE Sends You a Form
Because ICE holds your bond money, it’s up to ICE to issue the refund.
If ICE agrees that the bonded person met their conditions, then ICE sends you Form I-391 – the notice of immigration bond cancelation. Both the obligor (i.e., you, the person who paid for the bond) and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Debt Management Center receive a copy.
Here’s where things get tricky. Because immigration cases often last for years and come with so much upheaval, many people move during the intervening period. If that’s you, then your notice went to the address you provided when you first paid the bond.
If you move, you need to tell ICE where your new address is using Form I-333 Obligor Change of Address. It’s better to tell ICE that you moved before they send the I-391 rather than waiting until the case is over. You need to contact your ICE Field Office to complete the process.
Keep in mind that if the bonded person breaches their conditions, ICE holds them accountable.
If they fail to appear at a hearing or appointment, ICE sends you Form I-340 Notice to Obligor to Deliver Alien. You must then deliver the bonded person to the address at the date and time on the notice. If you don’t, you will receive ICE Form I-323.
Form I-323 is the Notice of Immigration Bond Breached. At this point, your bond is no longer refundable. However, you can still ask for a refund of the interest earned on the bond.
2. You Send the Paperwork to the DHS Debt Management Center
When you receive Form I-391, you then need to find Form I-305, the original immigration bond receipt.
You then send both forms (and ideally Form I-352 the bond contract) to the DHS Debt Management Center. Its address is P.O. Box 5000, Williston, Vermont, 05495-5000.
Can’t find Form I-305? You can get a new one — download Form I-395 (the replacement) from the ICE website. The form’s official title is Affidavit in Lieu of Lost Receipt of United States ICE for Collateral Accepted as Security.
You must fill out and sign the form in front of a notary public to submit it.
Then, you can submit both Form I-391 and Form I-395 to DHS.
3. Hurry Up and Wait
Once you submit the appropriate paperwork, you then wait for the DHS Debt Management Center to complete the processing. It may take four to eight weeks.
When your refund process is complete, you then receive the full bond amount plus interest – if you paid cash.
For many families, the size of the immigration bond is now too far out of reach. As a result, they rely on surety bond agents, and the process changes slightly.
4. Getting a Refund from Your Surety Bond Agent
If you used a surety bond agent, then most of this process doesn’t apply to you. The agent deals with the paperwork, delivering the bonded person, and completing the refund request.
Can you get a refund from your surety bond agent?
The answer is yes and no. You likely paid a 15-20 percent fee for the use of the agency’s services. The fee is non-refundable.
However, you also put up collateral (a credit card, house or land, etc.). When the surety agent gets its refund, then the bond agent releases your guarantee back to you.
For example, the agent may pre-authorize the bond amount on your credit card without charging you. When ICE discharges the bond, they remove the hold from your credit card.
Follow the Rules and Get a Refund
Immigration bonds are now hugely expensive. It’s not uncommon to receive a bond price in the tens of thousands of dollars.
To get a refund, the bonded person needs to comply with all their requirements, which includes court dates and court orders. That also includes a deportation order, if issued. Failing to do so means you (the obligor) lose the right to a refund, which means you lose your cash or collateral (if you used a surety bond agent).
Are you looking for ways to come up with bond money? Learn more about borrowing money in our Loans & Debts archive.