Guide To Avoiding Fraudulent Immigration Practitioners
Before you begin anything as important and final as an immigration application, whether it be for Citizenship, Adjustment of Status, Extension of Status or even a Deportation/Cancellation hearing:
- Always get a second or even a third opinion before you file or appear.• Find out what the qualifications of the agency and/or representatives are. Try to stay away from agencies that focus on other fields and just do immigration work intermittently or as a sideline. This is much too complex and important a field to trust anyone who doesn’t do this type of work on a daily basis.
- Don’t leave any important or one-of-a-kind documents with the agency or practitioner. The USCIS has not needed originals with filings for many years now; you may and should always bring the original documents, and a copy of same, with you to the USCIS interview.
- Make sure of what you are signing; try not to sign blank forms unless you check the title and number of each form signed. (These form numbers can be found on the bottom left hand corner of every CIS form, they usually begin with an I, N or G followed by three numbers.) Department of State forms begin with DS or OF.
- ALWAYS make copies of what you give the agency and get copies of what is filed on your behalf. Be certain mailed filings are done by certified mail/return receipt.
- You should try to pay with a personal check or a bank teller’s check. If you don’t have an account you may use a family member’s or trusted friend’s. As a last choice you can use a money order but they are usually more difficult, time consuming and costlier to trace.
- Whether you pay with cash or check, always obtain a receipt with: your name, the agency name and address, the amount paid, any balance left to pay, the type of case being done, (Ex. I-485) and the printed name and signature of the individual in the agency helping you or receiving your money.
- Besides a receipt, you should always insist on a written contract/retainer with the agency that clearly spells out what is being done for you and what it costs. If possible, it should also list what extra follow-up work may be involved and its cost.
- If someone promises to “speed up,” “fix,” “guarantee,” or otherwise influence your case before the USCIS -usually for a sizable upfront fee- it’s a very good indication that they are fraudulent practitioners. No one can guarantee any results except the USCIS itself.
- Use your common sense. If someone tells you that they alone can do something when all the other agencies have told you they cannot- it’s most probably fraudulent advice. Although it may be what you want to hear, remember that fraudulent practitioners are extremely skilled at baiting the hook and that you are the fish. They rely on your wanting a result so badly that you’ll overlook glaring problems with what they’ve told you.
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What should I watch out for when I’m filing my case?
Questions that relate to good moral character, fraud, affidavits of support and public charge issues, lack of proper documents, and omission of material facts are all things to watch out for. Many clients come to us and say “I’m really married, why should I worry?” The answer is that you must not only be in a legitimate marriage but also able to prove it on paper. The DAO (District Adjudication Officer), or IO’s (Information Officers) nowadays, does not know you and your spouse personally, therefore you must be able to offer proof that you have a bona fide case to the satisfaction of the USCIS. The Adjustment appointment letter has a comprehensive list of the necessary documents, so follow that list closely. If you do not have all pertinent documentation or a valid reason for not having it, you can and will be denied. The local District Office often decides that, as an applicant, you have been given sufficient time and notice to provide these documents or information by the time of the interview and failure to do so can be grounds for denial. “I’m too busy” is not a valid reason. In the USCIS New York District, in particular, they adjudicate cases relatively quickly but they also take a harder line in these matters.
Do not listen to your friends, unless they are referring you to a legitimate agency which has recently helped them obtain a final positive result in their own case. It is not wise to assume that just because your friends went through the “same” process recently that they are now experts in the field. First of all, no two cases are ever completely alike. Second, USCIS makes substantive changes in laws and procedures all the time and you cannot realistically rely on your friends to be aware of something that only recently passed. Third, hearsay is notoriously unreliable and dangerous to follow in a potentially complex case involving immigration and the future of your residency.
When I get on the Web and search “Immigration Services” a confusing thing happens – there are a ton of sites that come up and so many of them look like government sites. Only after submitting my information do I notice that they might not be the real deal. What should I do and what advice can you give me?
First off, it isn’t your imagination. When you put in those two keywords, literally millions of sites come up and the majority of them are not ‘the real deal,’ meaning that many of them imitate the government site and make you believe that you have filed electronically with USCIS when, in fact, all you have done is pay for the privilege of filling out your own forms. We always advise people filing any immigration form that a free, walk-in consultation with one of our staff members is the way to go. Always get an expert opinion BEFORE FILING. Second, recognize the tricks above and avoid troublesome websites. The fraudulent sites usually are looking for identity theft opportunities, are touting some non-existent program such as “Amnesty,” or are mimicking a free legitimate program like the Diversity Visa lottery, all to make you believe that you have won and now must pay to advance your application. Others imitate the USCIS government site with common logos and descriptions to make you believe that you are at the real site. If the web address does not end in “.GOV”, then it is NOT a government site. Anything that ends in “.net,” “.com,” or “.(anything else)” are not government websites. Lately, these fraudsters have gotten smarter and include “gov” somewhere in the web address, but not at the end, to further confuse you. The most common and easily mistakable are the sites that allow you to download forms and then charge you for the “privilege” of filing and filling them out online when, in fact, there is no such service. U.S. Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) only offers e-filing for the I-90 or “Green Card” replacement form online. All the other forms, such as Adjustment, Alien Relative petitions, Naturalization, Extensions, etc. are all done via regular mail. If you pay for any form online, excluding the USCIS application fee, you are actually paying a PRIVATE agency just to fill in and download your own forms. Most importantly, these forms are not going to the government and therefore will not give you the result you are seeking. See the sites for what they are, they are not the government and they are not signing a G28 as your legal representative so they do not represent you with the USCIS.
The information offered in this Website is general in nature and Q & A’s are intended as a guide and not legal advice. For specific legal advice for your particular case, take some time out of your busy life and visit us or other viable agencies/attorneys for an in- person consultation. Updated 02/2017