Saturday, December 8, 2012

Take Steps to Avoid Immigration Scams!

People seeking help to stay in the country, unfortunately, tend to be the most vulnerable to immigration scams.  USCIS warns to watch out for such scams.

What are some of the common immigration schemes?  USCIS provides a list of immigration scams.

One of the most common schemes are notarios.  Notarios publicos in Latin American countries have a different role than notary publics in the United States.  In the United States, a notary public verifies signatures.  But, in other countries, notarios are public officials with important duties.  The duties can include performing marriage ceremonies.  Many unscrupulous people will exploit this linguistic problem, and advertise that as notarios they are qualified to help someone get immigration status.  At times, the advice given by such notarios is just plain wrong.  Other times, notarios will fill out forms and file them for their clients, without checking into whether the forms are appropriate to file in the alien's specific case.  Notarios have also been known to charge money for services that are never delivered.

Then, there a local businesses who promise that they can get a person immigration benefits.  These can include promises to get a green card, work authorization and other visas.  Many of these businesses will advertise that their services are cheaper than a lawyer's services.  Of course, only a lawyer can give proper immigration advice.

One such immigration scheme was busted outside of Houston.  There, an elderly woman bilked aliens out of thousands of dollars to perform services which she never provided.  According to authorities, the woman promised to file forms on behalf of aliens, but failed to deliver.  Instead, she would make repeated excuses as why she had not performed as promised.

According to USCIS, other scams include the use of .com websites, which imitate real U.S. Government websites.  U.S. Government website always end in .gov.  Forms are available from USCIS with no charge, so aliens should be careful not to pay to obtain forms.

Another common scam involves the visa lottery.  Scammers will promise to make it easier to win the diversity visa program, or will send emails claiming that the alien has won the visa lottery.

One key that can be useful in identifying a scammer is whether the advertisement references the INS, or Immigration and Naturalization Service.  This agency was eliminated after 9/11, and replaced by three agencies with responsibility over immigration:  U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Those seeking immigration help would be best served by seeking advice from a knowledgeable immigration lawyer, or a reputable organization known to offer immigration help.

By: William J. Kovatch, Jr.
(703) 837-8832