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Protect Yourself From Dishonest Immigration "Experts"

Author : Rami Levi

Submitted : 2013-04-21 00:00:00    Word Count : 741    Popularity:   Not Rated

Tags:   immigration attorney, immigration lawyer, immigration services

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The number of scam artists preying upon immigrants seeking assistance in obtaining legal immigration status has risen dramatically in recent years and has become a serious problem, particularly among the Hispanic community. These individuals are non-attorneys who commit immigration consulting fraud when they hold themselves out as experts who are able to help immigrants gain legal status, but then fail to perform the services promised or knowingly provide improper services.

While there are many immigration consultants and immigration services providers who are honest and can provide limited yet helpful services to immigrants, unfortunately there are also many dishonest consultants and sometimes dishonest attorneys. These individuals take advantage of immigrants, despite many times being members themselves of the immigrants' own community.

Typical immigration scams often include false promises for immigration services that sound too good to be true, which are often offered with a demand for high service fees. Once paid, the scam artist either fails to file any documents or files applications for benefits for which the client does not qualify. By the time the individuals find out that they are victims of an elaborate fraudulent scheme, most have lost their money, their legal status, and may have obtained a blemished record with the immigration authorities or even face deportation.

There are a number of reasons why immigrants seeking to obtain legal status or work authorization in the United States are targeted. Immigrants are often uninformed and confused by the complexity of U.S. immigration laws, not to mention the frequent changes made in this area of law. Add to this the vulnerability and fear of approaching traditional authorities that many immigrants feel and the desperation to remain in the United States, and you have a situation ripe for abuse by scam artists.

Almost on a daily basis I receive complaints by members of various immigrant communities about just these kinds of scams. Some have paid for extensions of their visas that were either filed too late or without proper supporting documentation and denied, or filed without submission of the requisite filing fees and rejected. Others have shown me copies of applications for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence or employment authorization filed on their behalf for which the individual is clearly not eligible. In some cases, I've heard of consultants making outrageous claims that the client's green card or work authorization is ready to be picked up from USCIS, and the client must advance a large sum of money before instructions are given about the place and time of pick up. Of course, when the individual arrives at USCIS, no appointment was set and no green card or work authorization is waiting for them.

There are a few steps that immigrants can take to protect themselves from immigration fraud. First, it is important to ensure that the person hired is honest and legitimate and, if he or she is not an attorney, that they are only hired to perform basic non-legal immigration services for a small fee. Immigration consultants are prohibited from providing legal advice, but can provide or fill out forms and file or serve papers on other parties. Always obtain and keep a written contract listing all services and costs, and any other payment receipts and documents prepared for you. Never sign any blank forms or leave your original documents, such as passports or birth certificates with anyone. Finally, be suspicious if the promises that are made to you sound too good to be true, especially if the individual claims to have special ‘‘connections" inside the USCIS. Don't be pressured to pay immediately, shop around and get a second opinion from attorneys in the field.

It is also important to know that help is available to victims of immigration fraud. You may file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs or contact the District Attorney's Consumer Protection Division. These government agencies seek to ensure that all immigrants are protected from fraud and will help you regardless of your status. In addition, you may seek redress in small claims or superior courts.

Disclaimer:

This article provides basic information in the area of U.S. immigration law and is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it constitute any legal opinion by the author. This article is not fully inclusive; does not address all applicable laws including case interpretation; and may be subject to change as new laws and regulations are enacted.

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Attorney Orit Levit has dedicated her legal career to the exclusive practice of U.S. Immigration Law. Designated a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization, Attorney Levit is a Boca Raton Immigration Attorney at Levit Immigration Law Group.

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