As a Miami immigration attorney, I know immigration matters can be quite confusing. Emigrating to the U.S. and navigating the legal system is no easy feat, especially when English is not your first language. Because of this, it is highly unfortunate that a whole industry has sprung up which takes advantage of the fact that many recent immigrants may be unfamiliar with the system. This is known as “immigration fraud.” Below are some frequently asked questions about immigration fraud.
What is immigration fraud?
There are several forms of immigration fraud, including, but not limited to:
- Businesses or individual that falsely claim to practice law;
- Buying or selling immigration forms offered for free by the U.S. government, and;
- Promising to expedite immigration petitions for a fee;
Why should I pay attention to immigration fraud?
Immigration fraud is not only illegal – it can have devastating consequences on an immigrant’s life. As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have helped many clients who were victims of immigration fraud, resulting in denials or delays in their application, or exorbitant costs by way of unnecessary fees. In some cases, I have had to address cases wherein a client has had to face deportation proceedings because he/she was a victim of immigration fraud.
What are some types of immigration fraud?
There are several kind of immigration fraud. Some of the most common ones that you should look out for are:
- “Notarios” – In my personal experience as a Miami immigration lawyer, immigration fraud conducted by “notarios” is all too common. Many immigrants, especially those from Mexico and Spanish-speaking Latin-American countries, mistakenly believe that “notarios” in the U.S. are the same as “notarios” in their home countries. In many Latin American countries, a “notario” is a legal professional who is authorized to practice law; issue judicial opinions; and check the accuracy and integrity of certain legal documents.However, this is not the case in the U.S. In the U.S., only an attorney who is admitted to his/her state’s bar is allowed to practice law and call himself/herself an “attorney” or a “lawyer.” Further, in the U.S. a “notary public” is an individual commissioned by the state’s secretary of state to authenticate (“notarize”) signatures on legal documents, among other duties. I happen to be a Miami immigration lawyer who is also a notary public, but not all notary publics are also attorneys. In fact, before hiring any attorney, you should first visit the state’s official bar website to make sure that the attorney’s credentials are legitimate. As an example, the Florida Bar website is here.
- Businesses that “guarantee” results – If you encounter any business providing immigration services that guarantees results, you should be very wary. Remember – all immigration applications are discretionary. As such, there is no way to “guarantee” results. This includes applications for visas, green cards, employment authorizations documents, and naturalization. Understand that none of these approval for any of these applications is not guaranteed.
- Business that claim to expedite immigration applications – Some businesses claim that they can file and process your application faster than going directly through the actual immigration authorities. This is not true – these claims are always false. If you have any concerns as to whether a business or service is legitimate, you should contact a Miami immigration attorney to discuss your options.
- Paying for free forms available on the USCIS website – As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have encountered several clients who have been duped by websites which offer downloadable immigration forms for a fee. Again, such sites are running a scam. The USCIS forms are not only free; they have the most up to date forms. Do not be duped by these websites.
- “Visa Lottery” – While the US Depart of States does offer 50,000 “diversity visas” (DVs) to those meeting eligibility requirements, these are offered only via random selection, If you see any business claiming to “guarantee” selection – please be aware that this is probably fraudulent.
I think I have been a victim of immigration fraud. What should I do?
If you believe you have been the victim of immigration fraud, you have two options:
- Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission or,;
- File a complaint with your state.
Please note – simply reporting an incident of immigration fraud will not affect your immigration case. If you do have a pending immigration application, however, it may be in your best interests to consult with a Miami immigration attorney, as there may be a chance that your immigration application was botched due to immigration fraud.
If you would like more information on your children applying as derivative beneficiaries, please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq.at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at murraysilva.com.