What will USCIS do if the check with my application bounces?

Second chances are possible, but the beneficiary's Priority Date may be affected.

Question

I’m a green card holder, and am filing an I-130 petition to have my 22-year-old daughter get a green card. USCIS seems to be delayed in processing this – it’s been weeks, and I haven’t gotten a receipt notice. Our financial situation is pretty tight, and I’m worried that when USCIS cashes the check, we may have dipped a little below the amount we need to have. What will happen to my daughter’s I-130 if the check doesn’t clear?

Answer

First, you’ll want to look into whether the delay at USCIS’s end is normal. See the “USCIS Processing Time Information” on the agency’s website for more information.

If your check does indeed bounce, what you can expect next is not entirely clear. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seems to be a bit inconsistent – or at least unpredictable – when it comes to bounced checks and their effect on an applicant’s process through the immigration system.

The agency will often give the applicant more than one chance to pay, by sending notification and providing 14 days in which to send in a new check and pay a penalty. So, as long as you can come up with the funds via your next check, you shouldn’t worry that your daughter’s I-130 petition will be rejected altogether.

Whether your daughter will receive the same “Priority Date” (essentially, her place in line for a visa) after the bounced check is a less certain, however. In 2007, a USCIS Ombudsman stated that, in this situation, “The applicant is supposed to keep the same date in the processing line.”

Nevertheless, the Adjudicator's Field Manual followed by USCIS states, at Chapter 10.1(a)(2), that:

No application form may be accepted for processing unless it is completed and signed and the proper fee submitted. See 8 CFR 103.2(a). If, subsequent to receipting, a check submitted for payment is returned as uncollectible, the receipt (priority) date is forfeited.

So, it appears that USCIS could, if it wishes to, wait until your check has been successfully collected on to assign your daughter a Priority Date. Your best bet, obviously, is to try to keep a minimum amount of cash your checking account at all times. Or, use a credit card, by filling out and submitting USCIS Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

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