The prospects and processes of immigration are confusing enough. When you add the dimension of immigration fraud into the mix, it may seem a bit like you’re dodging through a mine field.
Immigration is a serious project and so is immigration fraud. You need to be very careful about who you get immigration advice from.
If you feel unsure about the legality of the advice you’ve been getting or if you are being asked to do things that cause you to wonder if you are dealing with a fraudster, you need to read on.
What is immigration fraud?
Immigration fraud occurs in two circumstances. First, if you’re attempting to immigrate into the U.S. through false purposes or illegal means, you may be committing immigration fraud.
Second, in the more popular sense in which it is known, immigration fraud is a scheme that manifests in taking advantage of persons genuinely seeking immigration in the U.S.
Either way, it involves the act of tricking a person interested in the immigration process, whether an official or fellow immigrant.
The most common scams
Immigration scams are often recycled. These scams, when found to work, may be retained and applied to a number of people. It is however possible to anticipate a future scam by understanding the more common scams.
The more common mechanisms through which unsuspecting immigrants are swindled include the following:
- Posing as providers of immigration services with claims that they can guarantee you a green card or speed up the process
- Requesting money for forms that you can find and download for free on the USCIS website.
- Asking for personal information or requesting payment for immigration services on the phone. The U.S. government does not request payment via the telephone. The government does not generally require personal information on the phone either.
- A notary public is not an immigration lawyer. Don’t acknowledge any immigration advice given under such guise.
- Receiving mails and communication from the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This service has ceased to exist.
Signs that you’re heading into fraud territory
- Request to sign blank forms. You may be asked to sign blank forms by the individuals you are taking advice from. This is a bad idea. Don’t sign any blank forms at all. If you have to, make sure that they have a title and legitimate numbers. The number is usually on the bottom left of the page.
- Demanding fees for immigration documents. If you are being asked to pay for forms that can be downloaded free of charge on official websites, you are probably being scammed. Check online for any official forms you are asked to pay for.
- Applications and documents from unofficial websites or defunct websites. Be wary of responding to calls for application on unofficial websites. These sites, apart from providing misleading information may also be used for identity theft.
- Phone calls from supposed government officials. The normal means of communication between the USCIS and prospective immigrants is their email addresses.
- It sounds too good to be true. If it looks like a duck.
Guide to avoiding immigration fraud
Now that you have an idea of what immigration fraud is, how do you avoid getting scammed? To do that, take note of the following:
- Always obtain a second or third opinion. Don’t settle for the first person you meet. Seek more opinions at all times.
- Never part with originals of your documents.
- Don’t sign blank forms
- Always be wary of promises to speed up or guarantee your case before the USCIS. It is only the USCIS that determines what its response would be to any particular petition. No one can guarantee the outcome of or speed up the process for it.
- Trust your instincts
- Report any scams you’ve been subject of. This would not affect your immigration status or application. For instance, if you receive a suspicious mail, you can send it to the USCIS Webmaster email box.
None of what has been explained above will be helpful to you if you fail to learn. Empower yourself by using resources that are available on the internet.
You should educate yourself on the processes involved in US immigration. You should also be aware of the various means through which unscrupulous persons scam potential immigrants.
You can educate yourself on the top things to know before and after filing an application or a petition. You can also find out about the best places to obtain professional help.
Knowledge, they say, is power. If you adequately educate yourself, you are less likely to be defrauded.