Unless you’ve already dealt with the immigration system in the U.S., you likely aren’t sure how posting immigration bonds works.
If a friend or loved one called you tonight and told you they’re in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, could you help them quickly? Do you know the process to post a bond?
Although the bond process isn’t difficult, not following it correctly can result in a detainee spending longer in custody than necessary.
There’s no reason to worry or lose sleep over posting a bond. Follow the instructions in our guide. Then you’ll know how to pay an immigration bond and can help get the person you love released from ICE custody.
What Is so Different About an ICE Bond?
If you think a bond is a bond no matter whether it’s for someone in jail or ICE detention, you’re only partially correct.
Bail is the amount set by a judge in either criminal or immigration circumstances. If a person can come up with the entire bail amount, they get released. If not, they have the option of going to a bondsman.
Bond is what gets a person who doesn’t have the full amount of bail released from custody.
For a criminal bond, someone pays the bondsman a percentage of the bail amount. The bond company pays the rest, and of course, the person in custody pays it back in payments.
In the criminal justice system, no one cares who pays the bond. In the immigration court system, only qualified people can pay. The person paying bond must be in the U.S. legally.
ICE doesn’t care whether it’s a relative, friend, lawyer, or a neighbor. As long as you’re legal here, you can pay the detainee’s bond.
Other than friends and family, an immigration bond specialist can also pay the bond. This link explains how the process works when it’s handled by a professional rather than people known personally by the detainee.
Information Needed to Pay an Immigration Bond
Before you can pay a bond, you’ll need some basic information about the detainee. Gather their full name and Alien Registration Number, or A-number. You’ll also need the ICE officer’s information who’s in charge of your friend or loved one’s case.
You can call the ICE Detention Reporting and Information Line at 1-888-351-4024 and provide them with the information. They should then transfer your call to the ICE officer. The ICE officer assigned to the case can tell you the amount of the bond, and where you can pay it.
If you prefer to ask in person, you can do that too. Go to the ICE office with the detainee’s information in hand, and speak directly with an officer there.
Where Do I Pay an Immigration Bond?
Once you know the bond amount, you’ll contact ICE and schedule an appointment to pay the bond.
Each office has its own telephone number and hours of operation.
This is one of the differences between paying a criminal bond and an immigration bond. In most criminal cases, you show up at the jail or detention facility and pay the bond. It doesn’t work that way for the immigration system.
Part of the reason for this is you must allow the ICE officer time to prepare the detainee for release. ICE officers work out of an ICE field office and must notify the detention facility when they can release the detainee. It’s a bureaucratic paperwork process and takes more than a minute.
Also, if you don’t live in the same area where your friend is detained, you’ll need to make arrangements to make the payment at a local ICE office. Be aware not all ICE offices accept bonds. ICE does maintain a list of the offices where you can pay a bond in person.
No Cash Accepted
When you consider how much the average amount is, it’s not hard to understand why ICE officers don’t accept cash.
The minimum ICE bond is $1500. Depending on where your friend or loved one is held, whether or not they have a criminal background, and whether the immigration judge feels they’re a flight risk, they may end up with a bond higher than $1500.
In some parts of the country, the average bond in 2018 was set at $7,500.
When you deliver the bond payment, you’ll need either a cashier’s check or money order printed by a U.S. Post Office.
Bring Your Identification
Remember earlier we discussed who can pay an immigration bond? Only a person with legal status in the U.S. can pay.
When you bring the bond to the ICE office, you’ll need to prove you have legal status.
Don’t forget to bring a valid photo I.D. and your original social security card. No copies accepted! We don’t mean to be pesky about this, but if you fail to bring the proper identification, you’ll prolong your loved one’s time in detention.
Two Types of Immigration Bonds
You have two types of bonds you can pay to get someone released from ICE custody. The first is a cash bond. The detainee’s friends or family pay cash bonds. They’re paid in full to ICE—there’s no partial payment or payment plan.
When you pay a cash bond, once all immigration proceedings are complete, and if the detainee doesn’t miss any hearings, you’ll get a refund of the full amount.
The second type of bond is a surety bond. For a surety bond, you’ll work with a special immigration bond agent. There’s a fee—usually, 15-20% of the total bond amount—and the immigration bond company pays the rest to ICE.
The surety bond is often used when a detainee or the person’s friends and family don’t have the cash for the full bond amount. It’s also a way to let someone who has experience with the immigration bond system take care of the details.
The immigration bond company takes much of the stress away and gets the bond paid correctly—the first time around.
Now You Know How to Pay an Immigration Bond
Hopefully, we’ve helped clarify what can feel like an overwhelming process. It’s not every day someone faces the often confusing process of dealing with immigration.
Now that you know how to pay an immigration bond, you’re better prepared to help a friend or loved one trying to get out of detention and continue working on their immigration case.
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