WFTV9 News recently ran a story about fraudulent immigration services in Florida and how immigrants and foreign nationals are suffering due to these scams.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve heard of this happening and it won’t be the last.
Foreign visitors and immigrants who want to enter or remain in the United States will often look for help navigating the U.S. immigration system. While some do this in the hopes of circumventing the system, others are honestly looking for help in understanding the documentation requirements and making sure they have done everything correctly to increase their chances of approval. Trouble arises when the individuals who offer this help are not immigration attorneys.
Whether the provider is dishonest or just inept, the result is the same, the immigration applicant suffers. Applicants can be convicted of fraud and be imprisoned, which then limits their ability to legally visit the United States or to become a permanent resident or citizen in the future.
Beware of Common Immigration Fraud Scams
Immigration fraud falls into two broad categories:
- Applicants who try to find loopholes in U.S. immigration laws or knowingly provide false information to immigration officials.
- Individuals offering unauthorized or fraudulent immigration services, typically to vulnerable immigrants.
It’s that second type of immigration fraud that I want to focus on here. These “services” are better referred to as scams; they typically take one of the following forms:
- Immigration Services. This is a very common scam where a provider charges fees to help applicants fill out forms, but aren’t qualified to do so. Sometimes they take the money and disappear. At other times, they fill out paperwork incorrectly or untruthfully.
- Visa Lottery Schemes. This scam claims to increase an applicant’s chances of getting a visa through the U.S. Department of State’s Diversity Visa Lottery program. The scheme can take several forms such as a) promising to increase an applicant’s chances of winning in exchange for a fee, b) charging money to help applicants apply to the lottery, or c) sending false messages that claim an applicant has won the lottery and must now pay a fee to accept their prize. Do not fall for this scam! While it is true that the Department of State offers a Diversity Immigrant Visa Lottery, it is completely free to enter and the winners are selected at random. There is no way to increase your chances of winning, despite what someone promises you.
- Notario or Notary Fraud. Notaries or Notary Publics are not immigration attorneys and therefore should not be providing immigration law advice. You may need a notary to witness a signature, which is legal and acceptable, but don’t accept legal advice from a notary unless they also happen to be an immigration attorney.
- Immigration Lawyer Fraud. Beware of who you hire to help you. An immigration lawyer must be a licensed attorney to practice law. There are people out there who advertise as an immigration attorney or immigration lawyer who do not have the proper credentials. Always ask to see their current law license.
In general, it is always best to remain skeptical, ask questions, get a second or third opinion, and be suspicious. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Contact The Best Immigration Lawyer Gail Seeram For All of Your Immigration Needs
If you are in a situation where you need help with an immigration issue, the best course of action is to find a local immigration attorney to help you. A simple internet search for “best immigration lawyer near me” is a good way to start. Once you have a list of attorneys, make sure they have experience in the service you need. Check their online reviews. Look up their law license with the state bar association. Schedule a consultation to find out if they can help you; many attorneys offer free consultations. Taking the quick and easy route is not the best choice when your immigration status and possibly freedom is at stake.
If you are in Florida and need an immigration attorney, call our offices. We can help you!