Paid an Immigration Bond? How to Get Money Back

Assuming the alien appears for all court hearings and follows all the orders of the court, the person who posted the bond (the obligor) should get his or her money back.

By , Attorney Case Western Reserve University School of Law
Updated 9/18/2023

Have you paid an immigration bond for a friend or relative, and are now looking to get your money back? While this process can be convoluted, you are entitled to get your money returned from the federal government in certain circumstances. However, you have to take proactive steps, as it will not just be returned automatically.

This article is specifically for a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who paid an immigration bond directly to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on behalf of a detained immigrant. If you paid a bail bond company, you most likely will not be entitled to the return of your money, and the contract you have with the individual company is what controls.

When an immigrant is arrested by ICE, perhaps after crossing the border into the U.S. without documents or after an immigration raid or other encounter within the U.S., ICE will normally place the person into a detention facility. There, the person will meet with an immigration judge, who will set a bond amount so the immigrant can be released pending the outcome of immigration court proceedings.

By paying a bond, you make a long-term commitment. It can take months or years before immigration court proceedings are over. Assuming the person does, indeed, show up for all the hearings and comply with the judge's orders (including any deportation order), whoever posted the bond money (the obligor) is entitled to its return. Despite this, many people have a difficult time getting their money back. So, how do you go about doing so?

What Is a Bond for Immigration Court?

Bond is money paid to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which allows a detained alien to be released from detention but gives the court leverage to make sure the person shows up for immigration court proceedings.

The amount of the bond is determined either by ICE as soon as the immigrant arrives in detention or by the immigration judge at a bond hearing. Requesting an immigration bond is separate from actual deportation hearings, and requires a separate hearing.

If the immigrant fails to appear at court hearings for removal proceedings, or does not comply with the orders of the court, the bond is revoked, meaning that the federal government keeps the money.

By contrast, if the foreign-born person appears for all immigration court hearings and follows all the orders of the court, you, as the obligor, should be able to the money back.

How to Get Your Immigration Bond Back

After your family member or friend has met all the conditions of the bond (attended all hearings and complied with any deportation order), ICE should send a notice of immigration bond cancellation (Form I-391) to both the obligor (we're assuming that's you) and to the Department of Homeland Security, at its Debt Management Center.

If, however, you have moved between the time you paid the bond and the time of your relative's deportation, it's probable that the notice was sent to your old address.

Assuming you eventually receive Form I-391, you must send it and other materials, including Form I-305, to the Debt Management Center, as described below.

What If I Don't Have the Original Form I-305?

If you can't find or otherwise misplaced your original Form I-305, don't panic. Go to the forms section of the ICE website and select Form I-395, Affidavit in Lieu of Lost Receipt of United States ICE for Collateral Accepted as Security.

Print and complete the form and bring it to a notary public, where you will sign it. That should cost around $15. Be sure to bring a photo ID; that's the whole point of visiting a notary, to ensure that you are really who you say you are and thus can rightfully sign your name.

Mailing Your Request

In sum, you'll need to send these items to the Debt Management Center:

  • Form I-305 (or if you lost the original, a notarized Form I-395)
  • I-391 (the notice), and
  • copy of I-352 (the bond contract) if you have it.

Send your packet to the Bonds Section at Financial Operations (commonly known as the Debt Management Center), Attention: Bond Unit, P.O. Box 5000, Williston, Vermont, 05495-5000.

When the Debt Management Center receives your forms, it will process your bond refund. You should then receive a refund of the original bond amount along with any interest that accrued during the months or years that proceedings took place during.

The refund process usually takes a couple of months. If you have questions concerning your immigration bond refund, call the Debt Management Center at 802-288-7600, then select option '2.'

What If the Immigrant Has Left the Country?

If the immigrant left the United States via voluntary departure, you will not be eligible to get your bond money back until ICE receives proof that the person has returned to his or her home country, from the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. After that documentation has been sent to ICE, the process to recover your bond money is the same as described above.

If the immigrant left the United States prior to the conclusion of removal proceedings, and without voluntary departure, you still have the opportunity to recover your bond money. You will, however, be responsible for procuring evidence that the immigrant is out of the United States (passport stamps, boarding pass, travel confirmation, and so on). You should request that the immigrant report directly to the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, to expedite the documentation. You should also still submit the ICE forms described above to the Debt Management Center.

What If the Immigrant Doesn't Comply with the Bond Terms?

If the immigrant fails to comply with the bond conditions, fails to appear at an immigration court hearing, or fails to attend an ICE check in, that immigrant will be considered a fugitive by ICE.

ICE will then send you ICE Form I-340, Notice to Obligor to Deliver Alien. This notice requires you to present the immigrant at an ICE check in.

If you fail to present the immigrant at the designated date and time, ICE will send you ICE Form I-323, Notice of Immigration Bond Breached. If that happens, you will not be eligible to receive a bond refund.

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