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Immigration & Naturalization Law

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Immigration Scams and Fraud

Every year, many people are desperate to obtain legal status in the United States. Often they don’t consult reliable sources about the immigration process, or they fall victim to immigration scams. Reporting immigration fraud to the United States government is very important.

Do not respond to unsolicited immigration scams. If you have any questions about your legal status, contact a qualified immigration lawyer who can help protect you and your family.

Warning Signs of Immigration Scams

Any promises that sound too good to be true probably are. You may be talking to a scammer if someone offers:

  • To process your immigration case “without risk”
  • That your family will obtain a visa “in a few weeks”
  • A guarantee that you will get a “work permit immediately”
  • “Internal contacts will speed up your paperwork”

False legal practices hurt individuals and also the integrity of the U.S. immigration system.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the following are the most common ways that scammers cheat people who need help with their immigration cases.

Scams To Apply For TPS

The United States government has uncovered fraud when people pose as “immigration consultants” or “legal professionals” and offer to process applications for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Only lawyers can practice immigration law. Beware of immigration consultants or notarios who may be putting your money and legal status at risk.

TPS is a benefit for some citizens of certain countries. However, many people do not qualify. Scammers will charge a fee to offer to download the form and fill it out regardless of whether you actually qualify for TPS. They may just take the money and not do anything.

The ‘Ten-Year Visa’ Trap

Another trick is the offer of a visa or quick legal status if you have been in the U.S. for more than 10 years. These may even be people who claim to be with a lawyer’s office, legal representatives, or notaries that guarantee legalizing undocumented immigrants through a 10-year visa.

Most of the time, they ask for a very large sum of money for their service, between $7,000 and $25,000. They may claim the money depends on the complexity of the process.

Some of these bogus immigration law practitioners even compile a file that is never answered and turns into a long wait until the victim gets tired and gives up their money.

Other scammers have fabricated asylum cases, and the people who believed in them have ended up facing deportation.

So-Called Notary Public Experts in Laws

In the United States, notary publics are not attorneys, nor are they authorized to represent cases related to immigration law. Notary publics are individuals who perform other functions, such as authenticating the signing of a document. Their functions cannot guarantee immigration benefits or obtain a Social Security number.

In some Latin American countries, notarios have legal expertise and carry out some legal work. However, notaries in the United States cannot practice law.

It is a common type of fraud when a notary public promotes themselves as a legal representative for immigration and offers advice to resolve a case. They will also try charging you as if they were a certified attorney in the U.S.

Fraud Against Families of Unaccompanied Migrant Children

These are tricksters who contact families of children who have crossed the border into the United States alone. They will speak to them in Spanish and identify themselves as a non-profit agency that works for immigrants’ rights.

During the conversation, the fraudulent worker will report that they have found a minor who claims to be a member of their family and that they will also be leaving the refugee center soon. Then they request money to undertake the legal procedures and pay for the child’s trip.

The FTC recommends not sending money to strangers and further notes that government agencies do not request money over the phone. Nor should you reveal your contact information.

If you are a relative of a migrant child under the care of the Office for Refugee Resettlement and want to know about their situation, you can call the following telephone number: 1-800-203-7001.

Request for Fee Payments by Phone or Email

According to USCIS, if someone emails or calls you demanding money to pay immigration service fees, it is a scam, and you risk losing your money. The scammers often require using gift cards or cash cards to use in the transaction.

USCIS representatives do not request payments over the phone, by email, or by using companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. It is recommended to check the procedures and filing fees for USCIS forms before sending money through strangers. Also, do not disclose sensitive information about your finances or assets.

Visa Lottery Fraud

The Diversity Visa Program (DV) is administered by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). To achieve this benefit, you need to apply with the government and you do not have to pay for it.

If you win the lottery, DOS will not send you a letter or email notifying you that you were elected, nor will it ask you for money to continue with the visa procedure. The only way to know if you were selected is by checking the status of your DV directly on the DOS website.

Fake Websites Promoting Themselves as Government Websites

Scammers create web pages that make it look like they are affiliated with USCIS. Their designs tend to confuse users because they look a lot like the official websites of federal government agencies.

The real pages:

  • Have the ending “.gov”
  • Will not request payment for downloading the forms
  • Will not ask for personal information
  • Will not require payments or subscriptions to receive more information about your case

Unrealistic Job Offers

Another form of deception is the offer of a job via email from a supposed U.S. company, which is also willing to sponsor a work visa. Usually, with that email, they also send a request for money for processing.

USCIS states that U.S. companies should not ask you for money to give you a job or process a work visa. If they do, it is illegal or false.

Even if you receive a job offer by email from a company in the U.S., before accepting it, consider that you need other additional procedures such as a work permit or a temporary work visa related to the job offer.

Foreign Student Visa Fraud

When a student from another country wishes to enter the U.S. to continue an academic program, they need to obtain an F-1 student visa. Only universities and colleges authorized by the United States Department of Education can help you process the I-20 form and the necessary documents to obtain your visa.

There are fraud cases committed by management companies that offer their services to process student visas and request money from the applicant for their services. Many times the documents obtained by the student are false, and their visa is denied.

Payments To Expedite the Case and Secure Your Application

Some websites promote themselves as agents to help you “speed up” your application process with USCIS. They will claim “special links” or internal influences. These are most likely scams.

To start the mobilization of the file, they ask for money that will supposedly be used to advance the waiting period or guarantee that their request receives an affirmative answer.

This type of service is not legitimate. The only way to know the status of your case is by checking it on the official USCIS website.

How To Report Immigration Fraud

Fraud related to immigration procedures and benefits is a matter of national security for the United States government.

The federal government is making efforts to track scams of this type. Therefore, it is very important that you report suspected fraud.

Report the incident online to the Federal Trade Commission, or call 1-877-382-4357.

You can also make a report through your state attorney general.

And if you receive suspicious emails, forward them to [email protected].

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