The INS will determine the amount of money that you must post in order for them to allow you to be released while you are waiting for your hearing. This money is called a “bond”. The bond money will be returned once you have departed the U.S., fulfilled the bond conditions, or become a permanent resident.
A bond is a type of insurance that guarantees that you will show up at your hearing if you are released from custody.
How much is the bond?
The legal minimum amount of an INS bond is $1,500. Amounts actually set vary around the country.
The amount of an immigration bond is determined first by the arresting immigration officer and is then approved by his supervisor. The bond is set at the amount they believe will make sure that the person will return on the date of the hearing. If a person establishes a good relationship with the immigration officer, has possible forms of immigration relief available, has no criminal record, and did not physically resist the arrest, the bond will tend to be at the low end.
Challenging the amount of the bond
After the bond has been set, the amount of the bond can be challenged by going back to the INS supervisor, or later at a hearing before an immigration judge, or even later at a second level hearing before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The challenge is referred to as a “bond redetermination hearing”, which means that the bond could be decreased, remain the same, or be increased.
Detention for crimes
The INS must incarcerate without bond persons who are deportable for crimes or suspected terrorism. A person may be released only if he is in the Witness Protection Program and the Attorney General is satisfied that the person does not pose a danger to other persons or property.
The removal hearing
The period that follows the setting of bond and the redetermination of bond is called the “hearing” stage and involves two steps. If you are still in custody (because you were unable to post a bond), your case will be placed on an accelerated calendar.
The first stage in this hearing process is referred to as the pre-hearing or “master calendar” hearing, where the immigration judge schedules large numbers of cases at the same time to determine which cases will be complicated and which ones can be resolved quickly. If you have given a lot of information to the INS officer and you are not challenging your removal, the case could be decided at this hearing.
If you apply for permanent residency, asylum, or relief from deportation, the judge will be set as a “merits” hearing. In many locations, these merits hearing are often scheduled up to a year later or more (if you have been released from custody).