Without an experienced immigration law attorney, the immigration process can be long, tedious and complex. It can be very tempting to try to find a way to simplify it or speed things up. Unfortunately, this creates an environment that is ripe for scammers and fraudsters. Such fraud not only results in your losing money—you can also find your application process slowed down or denied. You might even be removed from the country as a result!
Therefore, you should stay away from
- Anyone who is not a licensed attorney that tries to sell you services for navigating the immigration process
- Any immigration documents that are sold for a fee (all forms are available for free on government websites)
- Those advertising to expedite the process for a fee
- Anyone claiming they can improve the odds or guarantee a specific result in a visa or green card lottery
How Do I Know If Someone Is a Licensed Attorney?
Ask them which state or states they are licensed to practice in. Ask them for the number associated with their bar license. It is not enough to see the physical copy of their license: you should check with their bar association. You may then call the bar association of that state and ask whether they are a licensed member “in good standing” (i.e., that their license to practice law is not suspended or otherwise impacted by a negative disciplinary action.) You can view a list of the state bar websites here: https://generalbar.com/State.aspx
Any attorney can technically represent you in immigration matters; however, most do not have the specialized knowledge and experience required to do so well. You should make sure the individual has experience in immigration law or is part of a firm with extensive immigration experience.
Businesses and Services
You should only ever hire a licensed attorney to assist you with your immigration concerns.
The following are not licensed attorneys:
- Notary publics/notarios publicos
- Immigration “consultants” who do not hold a license to practice law in a state of the US
- Immigration “specialists” who do not hold a license to practice law in a state of the US
- “Someone in the neighborhood” who gives advice and assistance about navigating the immigration process
There is no business or service that can guarantee that you’ll receive your visa or green card or that your employment authorization documents will be approved. Additionally, no business or service can access more direct governmental back channels or make the process go faster. The only way any part of the process goes forward is directly through the federal governmental agencies. While an attorney might be able help you navigate existing regulatory exceptions to normal application processing times, there is no business or service that can influence those times through the applicant’s paying greater fees.
Any website that is selling forms or offering paid assistance in receiving or filling out forms from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is not affiliated with USCIS no matter what they might claim. All forms are available for free on USCIS’s website, along with extensive instructions, and there is no one who is not an attorney who will be able to reliably and correctly assist you in navigating this process. In fact, you should not even follow free directions on filling out these forms unless you find it on USCIS’s site itself, even if it sounds right to you. You have no way of verifying the soundness of the advice on such sites except by checking with the USCIS—which, again, offers free assistance in understanding the correct way to fill out their forms—or an attorney.
You should never, ever sign a blank form. A legitimate attorney or accredited representative will only ever ask you to sign a form that the you have already prepared with them.
Visa and Green Card Lottery Scams
Some visas and green cards are granted on a random basis to encourage diversity in admission from countries of origin. This process is truly random and cannot be favorably influenced by anyone. Anyone offering to improve or guaranteeing your odds in such lotteries is scamming you. These scams often turn up in e-mails. You will never receive a legitimate e-mail about improving or guaranteeing your lottery odds from the Department of State. Any such e-mail claiming to be from the Department of State is fraudulent.
A Note on BIA and USCIS Accredited Representatives
The only person who is not licensed attorney or firm of licensed attorneys that can be of any use in this process is an accredited representative recognized by the Department of Justice. An accredited representative of the USCIS or the Bureau of Immigration Appeals can be helpful in your immigration application and appeals processes. They are expressly authorized by the US government, and you should ask to see their accrediting documents and check them against the government’s records if you choose to go this route. All of these individuals must be part of a charitable organization and not a private company.
You can see a list of them here: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/recognized-organizations-and-accredited-representatives-roster-state-and-city
Accredited representatives can only assist on certain matters and in certain courts. For instance, they cannot assist you if you must appear in state court on a matter unrelated to your immigration status. For this reason, you may be better served by an immigration attorney than you would be by an accredited representative.
To learn more about this issue or to consult with one of our attorneys, call the Flores Harbour Law Office today for a private consultation (940) 387-3909.