How to Avoid Becoming Victims of Immigration Fraud
Valentini Law Offices is regularly invited to help victims of immigration scams at immigration fraud “clinics” organized by New York State Attorney General and American Immigration Lawyers Association. We’ve also effectively represented many victimized individuals who, with our assistance, were finally able to receive immigration benefits. Regrettably, in some cases, immigration fraud perpetrators have done some irreparable damage, therefore, we believe it is crucial for everyone dealing with their immigration matters to make sure they are not being defrauded. Valentini Law Offices, a New York Immigration Law Firm, hope that you will use our pointers on avoiding immigration fraud or reach out to us at (212) 213-8275 with your questions or concerns.
Common Scenarios of Immigration Fraud:
A client, Jamie, thought she was working with an immigration lawyer to resolve her case. Jamie was impressed by how many potential clients the “attorney” had waiting at his office for a consultation, which indicated to her that he was an experienced and well-established lawyer. Unfortunately, she was wrong in her assumption. She soon found out that her case was denied, she is out of status, a substantial amount of money she borrowed to pay the scammers was gone and her deportation is imminent. Upon additional research, Jamie discovered that a person she trusted to resolve her case was not a lawyer but, ironically, a hypnotherapist.
In another scenario, a client, Miguel, engaged services of a storefront office with a sign “Immigration/Inmigracion” in his ethnic neighborhood. Upon paying several thousand dollars, Miguel was patiently waiting for months to get a status update on his case. Tired of fruitless waiting, he visited the place, but “Immigration/Inmigracion” sign was gone and a nail salon was occupying the space. The nail salon owner, employees and patrons knew nothing of the previous tenant. Upon contacting Department of Homeland Security, Miguel found out that his case was never filed.
Had Jamie and Miguel followed simple pointers listed below, they would not have become victims of immigration fraud.
Pointers on Avoiding Immigration Scams
Check if the person you are working with is a licensed attorney. To do so, you may refer to Free NY Attorney Search. Also, check the American Immigration Lawyers Association: **Type in the Name of the Attorney and the Location. The websites will provide the Attorney’s State Bar Number and other information.**
Make sure there is a permanent law office location. Meet a lawyer in that permanent office, rather than their “virtual office,” home, restaurant, café, park, or a retail area. If an attorney you are considering to retain would not meet you in their physical office space, this is a major red flag. If there is no established physical office, your sensitive personal information would not be safe, exposing you to identity theft. Experienced and reputable attorneys always practice from established office spaces.
Similarly, if an attorney insists that there is no need to meet in person because “everything can be done via email, fax and mail,” this is also a major red flag. If an attorney does not have enough motivation to meet you for an initial consultation, he would have none to work on your case once retained.
When in the law office, examine the attorney’s bar admission certification.
Ask the attorney how many years they have been practicing immigration and naturalization law. Make sure the lawyer is an immigration law expert and not a licensed attorney in another area of law who takes your case just to generate income for their firm. Immigration law is highly complex. Many immigration cases can only be successfully resolved by attorneys with years of exclusive practice of immigration law.
By rules of professional responsibility, an attorney may not give you a "100 percent guarantee" that they will help your case. If they do, they may not be a licensed immigration attorney.
Avoid anyone who tells you they can get you a special “deal” or have “connections” with the immigration authorities.
Avoid “notario” fraud. In the United States, a “notario” is usually not an attorney.
Avoid companies or individuals who do not return original documents or copies of forms submitted to the immigration authorities or other government agencies.
Avoid, report and do not be afraid of anyone threatening to report you to the immigration authorities.
Do not sign blank applications, petitions or other papers.