Recognizing and Avoiding Immigration Fraud

If you or someone you know is thinking about hiring an Attorney or Immigration Consultant to help with immigration law, you should know that not everyone you pay for immigration-related assistance is knowledgeable, ethical or honest.  Dishonest attorneys, Immigration Consultants (or Notarios[1]), often violate the consumer rights of their clients by keeping their client’s original documents, charging unreasonable sums of money for work that is never performed, and/or filing incorrect or inapplicable paperwork with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Oftentimes, these erroneous filings can trigger interviews, investigations, and even place individuals in removal proceedings.

With Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) in the news lately, these dishonest individuals prey on would-be immigrants who may be uninformed, undereducated, and/or desperate by charging fees and taking deposits for work they may never be able to (or shouldn’t) perform.  CIR has not passed and there is no guarantee that it ever will.  Even assuming that the CIR bill passes, no one knows with any degree of certainty what the final law will look like and who it will help.

Knowledge is Power:  To protect yourself and your loved ones from scammers who over-promise and under-deliver, you must use common sense and know your rights.  Here are some helpful tips:

  • Getting in Line:  There is no CIR at this time.  Be wary of anyone who tells you that you need to pay an “advance fee” to “get in line” for CIR, if and when it becomes a reality.
  • Selling Secrets: Do not believe anyone who claims to know a “secret new immigration law” or claims to have an “inside contact” or special influence over a government agency, like USCIS.
  • Getting it in Writing: Reputable attorneys and immigration professionals will ask you to sign a written contract that spells out all fees and expenses prior to any completing work for you.   If they do not, insist on one and see it as a major warning sign.
  • Bonds:  Immigration Consultants in California are required to post a $50,000 surety bond and all consumers must be told about this bond in the contract. Additionally, they must display a sign in their offices stating that have posted this bond, possess a license, and are not attorneys.
  • Know When to Walk Away:  Ensure that the immigration provider is a licensed attorney and has no disciplinary complaints.  You can check a California attorney’s license at  Out of state attorneys may practice U.S. immigration law in California, but you should confirm the attorney’s standing in whichever state he or she was licensed.  Anyone who claims to be an attorney, but is not licensed, is not being honest from the outset.  If you choose to work with an Immigration Consultant, ensure that he or she has posted the mandatory bond and has an Immigration Consultant license. 
  • Do your Homework: Never sign an immigration application or petition that contains false information.  Never sign forms that are blank.
  • Follow-Through: Get a copy of all documents filed on your behalf, as well as proof that they have actually been filed—ask for a copy of the government filing receipt every time anything is submitted in your case.  Do not allow the consultant or attorney to use their office address as the primary address.  You should receive all correspondence at your own address.
  • Don’t Get Sucked In: It’s illegal to let anyone “find” you a spouse or sponsor to get a green card.  Fraud is treated very harshly under immigration law and could result not only in your removal from the U.S. but also in your inability to return for many years.
  • Use your Gut:  If you feel that something about the person, his or her office staff, or what they say makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to your instincts.
  • Final Note:  U.S. immigration laws are very restrictive.   You must understand and accept that there may not be any legal recourse for you at this time.

The Attorneys of U.S. Immigration Law Group is Here to Assist You and Your Family

As with all immigration matters, the attorneys at U.S. Immigration Law Group, LLP have the knowledge and experience to assist you in correctly assessing your situation and pursuing the best, fastest, and most ethical course based on your individual circumstances.   Whether you’ve been a victim of Notario Fraud or just want reliable honest legal advice, we would be happy to discuss your matter with you.  Please contact our firm to schedule a consultation.

[1] In Mexico and other Latin American countries, a Notario may complete legal documents and paperwork on behalf of clients.  In California, a Notary is only permitted to acknowledge that a person signing a document in front of the notary has personally appeared and identified him or herself under penalty of perjury.