What Will USCIS Do If the Check With My Application Bounces?

Failure to maintain sufficient funds in a checking account could result in USCIS rejecting the application or petition altogether, which would then delay your case.

By , J.D. University of Washington School of Law
Updated 5/14/2024

Between USCIS delays in processing and people's tight financial situations, it is not uncommon for applicants for U.S. immigration benefits to worry that by the time U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gets around to cashing their personal check, the applicant's account might have been depleted so much that it has dipped below the amount they need to have. Here, we will discuss how a bounced check will be treated by the U.S. immigration system.

How Long Will the USCIS Delay in Your Case Be?

First, you will 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. That will give you an idea of the length of time for which you need to keep tabs on your checking account to make sure you have sufficient funds to cover the immigration fee. Write this on your calendar, or do whatever else is necessary to make sure you don't forget!

What USCIS Does When a Check Is Returned for Insufficient Funds

If your check does indeed bounce, the most likely result is that USCIS will return the application to you and you will have to try again.

In the past, the agency often gave applicants 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. But more recently, its policy has been to simply bounce the application or petition back to the person who filed it, so that they need to start over. That could mean their receive a less beneficial Priority Date (meaning their place on the visa waiting list, within the preference system).

Your best bet, obviously, is to try to keep a minimum amount of cash in your checking account at all times. Or, use cashier's check. Or pay using a credit card, by filling out and submitting USCIS Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

Getting Legal Help

Despite the expense, if your application goes off track because of an unpaid check, you could reduce further delays and hassle by hiring an experienced immigration attorney to help.

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