Avoiding immigration scams
Immigration scams are everywhere. They come around any time, especially, when there are recent announcements of new immigration benefits by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Alice is a health care professional. She entered the United States using a visitor visa. Although the purpose of her trip was for pleasure, she was convinced by a close relative to consider applying for a working visa. Alice was introduced by her relative to John, supposedly an immigration consultant. John offered to find her a sponsoring U.S. employer and to assist her in getting a green card. John charged a substantial amount of money, and Alice gave John all the money she had left with the hope that she would get a green card. A few weeks passed and Alice never heard from John. Meanwhile, Alice met the administrator of a health care facility who offered her a job for no fee. The lawyer of the health care facility filed the immigration petition and the application for adjustment of status.
During the interview for Alice’s application, she was asked about a prior petition that she filed. Since she never heard from the John, she answered no to the question. The USCIS officer then showed Alice copies of the petitions filed on her behalf. It was not an employment petition as promised by John, but it was a marriage petition filed by a certain “Noel,” a U.S. citizen, who Alice never met. The marriage petition had Alice’s complete and accurate information. Alice denied having knowledge of the marriage petition. Obviously, the marriage petition was fraudulent, Alice’s application for adjustment of status based on her valid employer petition was denied as a result.
The case of Alice involves fraud and misrepresentation. She dealt with a person not authorized to practice law and who obviously was just after her money. It is true that she lost contact with John, but the harm has been done. A fraudulent petition was already filed and these have serious consequences on her future application even if the latter were valid.
The complexity of immigration petitions may vary depending on the nature of the immigration benefit sought. In most cases, the advice and legal assistance of attorney or an accredited legal representative is necessary. Undeniably, there are unscrupulous individuals who may try to exploit the vulnerability of certain applicants for the visa. Scammers may falsely represent “legal” sponsorship through a purported U.S. company, and the innocent victim will pay significant money just to find out that they have no jobs when they arrive in the United States. Some may claim to have “connections” to the USCIS and “guarantees” of positive outcome. Solicitations by those engaged in unauthorized practice of law appear in different media, including social media.
The USCIS consistently warns the public against immigration scams and on its website www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams provides important information for the public to be aware of these scams. It is important that the prospective immigrant exercise due diligence in choosing the right person who will provide the legal assistance. Remember, as the saying goes, the wrong help can hurt you.
(Atty. Lourdes Santos Tancinco, Esq. is an immigration attorney with the Tancinco Law Offices, a San Francisco CA based law firm. She may be reached at 1 888 930 0808, [email protected] , facebook.com/tancincolaw, or through her website www.tancinco.com)
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