With 843,000 immigrants coming into the United States during fiscal year 2013, it’s no surprise that immigration services have greatly expanded. While most services seek to help immigrants, some individuals are trying to take advantage of these newcomers with various immigration scams.
Immigration scams come in many forms. The most popular happen via telephone, email, websites and local businesses. These scams can delay your application or petition, cost you unnecessary fees or possibly result in removal proceedings. Knowing the identifying qualities of these scammers can save you time and money, and provide some much needed peace of mind.
• Telephone scams: Telephone scammers will often call you and pretend to be a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer. In most cases they will ask you for personal information, such as a Social Security number or A-number, create false problems with your application, and ask for payment information in order to correct these problems. It’s important to know that USCIS will never ask for payment over the telephone. If you receive a call like this say, “No thank you” and hang up.
• Email scams: Email scammers will often send you an email saying you have won the “immigration lottery!” They may say you have won a green card, visa or diversity visa. They may also ask you to pay a fee in order to obtain it. This is a scam. The only way to apply for these programs is directly through an official government process; the Department of State does not send emails to applicants.
• Websites: When searching for immigration help on the internet it is important to ensure you are visiting a viable website. Some websites will offer the forms, form instructions and information on processing times for a fee. USCIS.gov offers all of this information for free. Websites that end with “.gov” offer reliable sources of information.
• Local businesses: Some businesses in your community may “guarantee” that they can get you benefits such as a visa, green card or employment authorization document. These businesses will often charge you a much higher fee than USCIS does. They may also claim to have your application approved faster than if applying directly with USCIS. This is untrue. There are very few exceptions to the USCIS processing times.
If you believe you have been contacted by an immigration scammer, USCIS requests that you report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission. Follow this link to find the appropriate place to report for your area: www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-immigration-scams. If you’d like more information on immigration scams, please visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/uscis-tags/unassigned/avoid-scams.
If you have questions regarding an immigration matter, please contact one of our immigration attorneys today!