Acquiring work visas, changing immigration status, and engaging in other immigration affairs is a time consuming and laborious affair for immigrants. Unfortunately, many individuals and businesses try to exploit individuals who are in need of immigration services. Immigration scams include the sale of immigration documents, solicitation of services by people who are not permitted to practice law, and promises to speed up immigration claims for a fee. These fraudulent actions delay immigration applications and cost victims huge sums of money. This resource will highlight the common forms of immigration scams, ways to avoid these scams, and how to go about reporting these fraudulent services.
Types of Immigration Fraud
A Promise of Premium Services
Many businesses offer promises of green cards, visas, work permits, and other immigration documents. Typically, these businesses charge more than you would pay the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some cases, these unscrupulous individuals claim to be able to process and file your petition or application in a short time without the need to pass through the appropriate federal agencies. Although there are exceptions to USCIS application periods, immigration service providers cannot fast track processing of documents or petitions.
Some sites provide instructions for filling petitions or applications and solicit fees for immigration forms. These websites claim to be associated with USCIS when in fact they are not. The USCIS website offers immigration forms free and does not charge for detailed instructions or information on filing fees and processing times.
Visa Lottery Claims
In order to encourage people to apply for immigration status in the U.S., the Department of State(DOS) normally offers 50,000 diversity visas to persons who satisfy eligibility requirements. These visas are granted through a random selection process. Therefore, anyone claiming to guarantee selection, or improve your chances of receiving a diversity visa is a fraud. In many cases, these fraudulent offers and claims come in form of online advertisements and emails. Be warned, the only way to apply for DV lottery is by making an official application through the Department of State.
Services Provided by “Notarios Publicos”
A notary public authenticates (notarizes) signatures and checks the integrity and accuracy of legal documents but he/she is not a legal professional. If a “notario publico” in the U.S. handles an immigration case beyond the duties of a notary public, he/she is practicing illegally.
If you get a suspicious email regarding a job offer, it is likely that it is a scam if you are required to pay cash to be hired. If the offer is legitimate, it is worth remembering that you are not permitted to work in the U.S. unless you have a green card, work permit, or a visa that allows you to work for a particular person.
Scam Targeting Students
If you are a foreign student outside the U.S. and want to move to the U.S. to further your studies, ensure you apply to a school certified to offer a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). You are also required to have a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20). A school that is not accredited cannot claim to sponsor you for the F-I student visa, therefore, institutions requesting a small fee for the visa are scams.
Tips for Avoiding Immigration Fraud
Reporting Immigration Service Scams
If you have reason to believe that a service provider is engaging in immigration fraud, you should inform the Federal Trade Commission. Alternatively, you can file a complaint in court. Reporting a scam does not affect your immigration status or petition. Also, in many states, you are allowed to report immigration fraud anonymously.
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