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Avoiding Immigration Scams

Avoiding Immigration Scams


Immigration scams can lead to identity theft, long-lasting financial impacts, and significant immigration complications. Unfortunately, several factors may leave immigrants vulnerable to scams. Immigrants are often unsure of their eligibility for a green card or certain visas, while other individuals may be completely unfamiliar with the U.S. immigration process. In many cases, English is not the immigrant’s first language. These circumstances all have the potential to put immigrants at risk of scams.

Immigrants may encounter scams at all stages of the immigration process. Here, we explore several common scams as well as the advantages of working with an immigration attorney.

Notarios Posing as Attorneys

In the United States, a notary public is an individual who is licensed to act as a witness to signatures of important legal documents. However, in much of Latin America and Europe, a “notario” usually refers to someone who is licensed to practice law and has received advanced legal education. Scammers take advantage of the alternate definitions to pose as attorneys when in reality they are unqualified and lack legal training.

The USCIS designates only two types of authorized immigration service providers who are qualified to offer legal advice regarding your immigration case:

  • Licensed attorneys in good standing who have an unrestricted ability to practice law; and
  • Accredited representatives of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Access Programs.

Imposters Pretending to Represent Government Agencies

Another common immigration scam is people pretending to represent a U.S. government agency, usually USCIS or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). When impersonating an ICE or USCIS official, scammers may frequently call or email the victim with claims that there are issues with their immigration status. The scammer then offers to “solve” the problem for a fee. Often, the scammer threatens to deny a visa application or initiate an order for deportation if the fee isn’t paid.

If you are unsure of whether the individual claiming to be a USCIS worker is legitimate, contact USCIS at 800-375-5283 to speak with customer service.

While imposter scams are primarily concerned with receiving an immediate payment, some scams intend to collect personal information, such as your name, social security number, or address, to steal your identity.

A few examples of scams that have been reported include:

  • Phone scams appearing to be from the Department of Homeland Security
  • Deportation threats from scammers posing as ICE agents
  • Emails impersonating the U.S. State Department claiming to offer a diversity visa
  • False websites encouraging immigrants to file paperwork and pay fees that are never submitted

How Can Immigrants Identify Scams?

Scammers use deceptive tactics to conceal their true intentions, often making it difficult to spot a scam. However, there are several indications of a scam that immigrants should be aware of:

  • Contradictory Information. If the self-acclaimed USCIS representative says you qualify for a green card when your attorney said you don’t, it could be a scam. Other immigration issues, such as deportation, are typically not solved through monetary payments.
  • You Are Guaranteed a Specific Result. Immigration law is complex, and absolute “guarantees” do not exist. Attorneys approach each situation on a case-by-case basis.
  • No Explanation is Provided. Many scammers make false promises, such as providing a work permit, without explaining what makes you eligible to begin with.
  • Demanding Uncommon Payment Methods. Scammers often request payments in the form of gift cards and other unusual transactions because these can be harder to track than traditional payments. USCIS has specific instructions for checks and money orders made for applications and related immigration fees.

Contact an Immigration Attorney

Immigration is complicated, and immigrants should be aware of scams as they navigate the process. Working with a qualified immigration attorney can help you avoid scammers, as well as common mistakes that can result in a delay or denial of your immigration petition. Contact an immigration lawyer at Sverdloff Law Group today to discuss your case.


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