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Avoiding Immigration Scams

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on September 10, 2015

It’s a sad fact, but immigration scams are all too common. People and businesses try to prey on individuals seeking to come to the United States on immigrant or non-immigrant visas, as well as those within the United States who want to bring their family members into the country. To avoid becoming a victim, familiarize yourself with the most common scams. Working with an Illinois immigration attorney will also help protect you from common immigration-related cons.

“The Internet, newspapers, radio, community bulletin boards and storefronts are filled with advertisements offering immigration help,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). “Not all of this information is from attorneys and accredited representatives. There is a lot of information that comes from organizations and individuals who are not authorized to give you legal advice, such as ‘notarios’ and other unauthorized representatives.”

Notario Publico

In many Spanish-speaking countries, a “notario publico” is a type of lawyer with special credentials. This is not the case in the United States.

In the United States, a notary public — the literal translation of “notario publico” — is an individual who has been appointed by the government to witness the signing of certain documents and to administer certain oaths. U.S. notary publics are not authorized to provide legal advice on immigration or any other type of legal matter. (Unless, of course, the individual is also a licensed lawyer.) However, in U.S. neighborhoods with a high concentration of Spanish speaking residents, many notary publics will advertise themselves as notario publicos in hopes of confusing residents who might not understand the distinction between a notario publico in other countries and a notary public in the United States.

Telephone Scams

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, beware!

Scammers frequently ask for personal, identifying information, such as passport numbers, Social Security numbers or A numbers. They may lie and tell you that there’s a problem with your application, and ask you to pay a fee by telephone to resolve the issue. If you receive such a call, ask for the caller’s name, title and telephone number, but don’t give them any personally identifying information. Instead, tell them that your Illinois immigration attorney will follow up with them directly and then end the call.

The USCIS will never call you to request payment via telephone.

Over-Promising and Under-Delivering

You may have seen signs in local storefronts and ads in local publications from companies that make immigration guarantees. Perhaps they promise they’ll get you a visa or a green card. Maybe they claim you’re already a winner in the diversity visa (DV) lottery or green card lottery.

No one — not even an immigration lawyer — can guarantee to solve your immigration issues or obtain a visa on your behalf.

Immigration is a complex area of the law, and no two immigration issues are alike. Immigration attorneys with experience in these matters can help ensure that you’ve taken all of the necessary steps when applying for a visa or green card, for example, but ultimately the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service has final say in these matters. Don’t be fooled by scammers that make promises they cannot keep.

Posing as an Illinois Immigration Attorney

When you hire an Illinois immigration attorney, you’re hiring a lawyer who thoroughly understands the process of applying for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa, or obtaining U.S. citizenship. Your lawyer will gather information requested or required by USCIS, complete all of the necessary forms, respond to requests for evidence (RFEs), prepare you for interviews and accompany you to those meetings, and address any issues or concerns raised by USCIS during the application process. In essence, the immigration lawyer holds your hand from the beginning of the immigration process until the USCIS makes a final decision.

Many online websites claim to offer immigration assistance for a fee, but are not legally authorized to do so.

“If you need legal advice on immigration matters, make sure that the person you rely on is authorized to give you legal advice,” according to USCIS. “Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Board of Immigration Appeals-recognized organization can give you legal advice.”

Also, don’t be taken in by websites that offer to sell immigration-related forms. If you cannot afford to hire an immigration lawyer, you can obtain all of the necessary forms — for free — from the USCIS website.

If you’re seeking a business- or family-based visa to the United States, are seeking to become a legal permanent resident or hope to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, don’t fall victim to scammers who are seeking to take your money without actually providing any help. The Chicago, Illinois-based immigration attorneys at The Shapiro Law Group can help guide you or your loved ones through the U.S. immigration process. Call us today at (847) 564-0712 for a free initial consultation.