Money and USCIS: Refund Requests and Bounced Checks
Generally, USCIS does not issue refunds for filing fees, regardless of the decision on the application. There are very limited exceptions: for example, when USCIS collects the incorrect fee. If an applicant or petitioner believes he or she is entitled to a refund of a fee, the first step is to write to the service center where the application is pending. If the service center agrees that a refund is warranted, it will forward the refund request to the Burlington Finance Center (BFC) for check/money-order issuance, usually within 2-3 weeks of the case being adjudicated. The service center will also submit a refund approval notice to the applicant once a decision has been made. The case receipt number also becomes the case identification number for BFC purposes. Because the BFC works as only a debt manager for all outstanding balances on USCIS applications and petitions and does not decide whether to issue a refund, only contact the BFC once the refund request has been approved and forwarded to the BFC for refund issuance. The refund will be issued to the person who paid USCIS, in whatever form it was originally submitted (check, money order, or credit card reimbursement). Be sure to check your current mailing address, as the BFC will mail the refund or confirmation of credit card reimbursement to the address it has on file. The check or money order will look similar to other government checks, such as federal tax refunds. The contact information for the BFC is: Burlington Finance Center, P.O. Box 5000, Williston, VT 05495-5000, Phone: (802) 288-7600 or 1-866-233-1915 (toll-free).
Under the regulations, failure to properly file a petition may result in a denial or rejection, with no return of fees. Improper filings include cases where the filing fee check or credit card payment was returned as not payable. Previously, if a payment was rejected, USCIS generally would arrange with the BFC to invoice the applicant or petitioner. The replacement check (or credit card payment) had to be received within 14 days of the invoice date. Now, however, USCIS will no longer give individuals the opportunity to cure a dishonored payment. If a payment is initially returned as unpayable by the applicant’s or petitioner’s financial institution, the Department of Treasury will “re-present” the rejected payment to the remitter’s financial institution once more before notifying USCIS of the dishonored payment. Once the payment is dishonored, USCIS will reject the filing and impose a $30 charge. A rejected benefit request will lose its filing date and any receipts issued will be voided. If an application or petition is approved prior to the discovery of a dishonored payment, USCIS may revoke the approval. Moral of the story: Make sure you have sufficient funds in your bank account when paying the filing fee for your immigration case.