When someone who is not a legal resident of the US is arrested in the US for a crime, he or she will usually be booked and charged with an offense. The individual can then be released on bond, which is a sum of money paid to ensure that the defendant appears in court. However, for everyone other than a legal resident of the US, an immigrant bond is needed to secure release from jail.
Unlike most bonds, an immigration bond is a federal bond, which makes you answerable to the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the federal government. When you pay your bond amount in cash, the money will go to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In a traditional bond, the money goes to the local court or jail.
Just like regular bonds, immigration bonds vary in amount. A judge will evaluate your flight risk, your financial status, the severity of your crime, and other factors when determining what bond to set. Unfortunately, immigrants face a disadvantage in this process. They are often considered a high flight risk – especially in the case of undocumented immigrants – because they usually have strong ties outside of the US and only limited ties within the US. This can mean that bond amounts are set higher for non-residents of the US.
If your bond amount is so large that you cannot pay it with cash, you will need a bondsman who works for a bail bond company. A bail bond company is a private firm that helps people pay their bond. You will pay the bondsman a percentage of your bond amount – often 10% — and the bondsman will pay the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement the rest of your bond amount. It is the bondsman’s job to ensure that you arrive for your court dates. If you do not, the bondsman loses his investment.
It is important to note that not every bail bonds company is licensed to offer help with immigration bonds. You will need to find a bondsman who is correctly licensed. As well, in some cases, bondsmen charge higher fees to non-residents of the US, as they pose a higher flight risk. You may want to compare fees and prices before settling on a bond company. Some bond companies also require you to own property in the US which can be used as collateral. This means that if you do not show up in court, the bondsman can use the property to pay the bond.