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Avoid Immigration Scammers; Use Experienced Immigration Lawyers Instead

Earlier this year, the federal government charged a man in Sacramento, California with conspiracy and fraud for his role in running an immigration scam which garnered high fees from immigrants across at least seven states hopeful for U.S. citizenships. This man operated a nonprofit which promoted adult adoptions as a pathway to citizenship status, taking in at least $500,000 from 500 immigrants across the country.

Though authorities called this man’s actions “unusually creative,” these scams are unfortunately common. Unscrupulous people take advantage of vulnerable undocumented immigrants who are often unwilling to report the fraud to the police for fear of deportation.  However, many states now allow immigrants to report scams anonymously.

Is your attorney really an attorney?

Check that the person representing you is really an attorney. The U.S. Customs and Immigration Service warns on its website that sometimes notary publics in the U.S. misrepresent themselves as attorneys. This often occurs because in many Spanish-speaking countries, “notaries” are attorneys with special legal credentials. In contrast, a “notario publico” in the United States performs duties such as witnessing the signing of documents. A notary has no ability to provide you with legal advice or services related to immigration without also possessing a law license.

Fortunately, you can check whether your “attorney” is legitimate online fairly easily. Most state bar associations have search functions on their websites so you can check that your attorney is currently licensed and in good standing.  For example, the State Bar of California’s attorney search is right here: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/membersearch/quicksearch. You can easily check that Maximilian Law’s own Cedric M. Shen is a lawyer in good standing, with an active law license. Such databases also often give information about any past disciplinary action against that attorney.

Does the website ask you to pay money in order to receive immigration forms?

All USCIS forms are available to download online, by mail, or by phone (at 1-800-870-3676). If any website says that it is affiliated with USCIS but attempts to charge you for these forms, they are attempting to scam you. Ensure that you know where your information is coming from before you act or give any money to anyone.

Other scammers attempt to trick people into paying their immigration fees via phone. All official immigration fees will go through any domestic field office of the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS.gov, or the U.S. mail.

Other Tips

USCIS suggests that immigrations read all form instructions thoroughly, ensuring that you fully understand it and that it’s filled out truthfully and accurately before you sign it. Never sign blank forms or any forms that you cannot read or do not understand. Any time you make a payment to anyone who helps you with your immigration case, make sure you get a receipt.

Immigration scams can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission; you can find a list of the applicable agencies and protective state laws online at https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-immigration-scams. USCIS also offers a lot of information on how to avoid immigration scams online at https://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams.

If you are looking for immigration advice from a trustworthy, experienced source, the immigration law firm of Maximilian Law Inc. can help.