Beware of These 5 Immigration Scams
Peri B. Edelman | March 30, 2021
In 2016, Josefa Siverio was charged in Miami for immigration fraud. Claiming to be an “immigration consultant,” she charged clients thousands of dollars in fees to prepare and submit petitions. Instead of directing their checks and money orders to the USCIS, she had her clients write checks to herself, and kept the money. Thus, the applications of her 100+ clients were denied.
While Josefa Siverio was eventually caught, she is not an anomaly. I have had hundreds of clients come to me after falling victim to immigration scams. Unscrupulous consultants and attorneys frequently take advantage of vulnerable immigrants coming to the U.S. Immigrants seeking visas and green cards must avoid these scams to prevent long-term consequences to their immigration status.
- Fraudulent Asylum Claims: Many clients come to me after their previous attorneys have filed them for asylum without a valid claim to do so. These attorneys promise hopeful immigrants that they can get an employment authorization; these clients have no clue that their attorney is actually filing a frivolous claim for asylum. Since these individuals are not actually eligible for asylum, their cases are placed under Removal Proceedings and they face deportation from the United States, resulting in the need for a deportation lawyer.
- H1B Visa Scam: Especially popular in India, the H1B job offer scam frequently preys on recent graduates and professionals looking for work visa sponsorship from a United States company. A fraudulent business will make a job offer and promise sponsorship, and make the worker pay the company to work in the United States.
- Notarios: In the U.S., a notary public is a person who witnesses people sign documents. In many Latin American countries, however, a “Notario” is a legal representative. This misleading translation enables individuals to pose as licensed representatives who are qualified to prepare and submit immigration paperwork. Unfortunately, these “professionals” are nothing more than fraudsters who charge immigrants to file false claims, incorrect forms, or, in some cases, nothing at all. These scammers frequently target small communities where they will be trusted because they speak Spanish.
- Copycat Emails and Websites: Some websites and emails bear striking resemblance to USCIS communications, but are in fact fraudulent. These websites will frequently charge for forms that are otherwise available for free and/or collect payments through money orders on their website. Emails claiming to be from USCIS will cite bogus laws in order to collect payments and/or offer to help immigrants “cut the line” in return for a fee. Remember, all web and email addresses from the USCIS will end in “.gov.”
- Scare Tactics: Unscrupulous attorneys and “notarios” (posing as attorneys) will often scare clients with false threats of deportation in order to charge egregious up-front fees. Similarly, individuals posing as ICE agents will demand money in order to avoid arrest. Attorneys may also promise a “golden opportunity” through the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery program, and again demand urgent payment.
Unfortunately, falling victim to any of these scams can seriously threaten an immigrant’s finances and immigration status. Remember that only accredited representatives and licensed immigration attorneys are authorized to assist with immigration cases. My team and I pride ourselves on integrity and compassion, which is the reason I routinely have turned down potential clients where I see no chance of a successful outcome. An ethical immigration attorney will provide an honest evaluation of your case and not make any guarantees.
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