Immigration Scams are frauds committed by unscrupulous people against aliens, by taking advantage of the vulnerability of the alien: the alien's desire to obtain an immigration benefit or immigration status and the alien's ignorance of the law as well as the alien's feelings of helplessness in a new and threatening environment.
The scammers pretend to assist the alien - for a payment - in obtaining a benefit or a legal status. But what the scammer does in reality is filing improper applications on behalf of the alien, full of incorrect information, claiming for the alien benefits or status for which the alien is not entitled. As a result the alien is "hit" twice: The alien's money is truly stolen by the scammer, and the alien is brought to the attention of the Immigration Services in a way that guarantees a Deportation Hearing.
(As a matter of fact, the best result for the alien is when the scammer takes the alien's money and disappears without filing any applications. This way the alien suffers only a financial loss, but is spared the headache and heartbreak of a deportation case).
How to avoid immigration scams?
Here are five suggestions:
1. Never, ever, listen to or accept suggestions from friends or relatives who tell you that they know somebody who has "connections" and knows how to "arrange" this with the Immigration Service.
2. Never, ever, agree to pay for "assistance" in obtaining proof or documents which might be required for a case, such as: offer of employment, or letter of experience, or a petitioner for any kind of visa.
3. Seeking "second opinions" is a good idea, in medicine and in law.
4.Always be suspicious.
5. Remember the old, very old Roman Warning: CAVEAT EMPTOR - BUYER BEWARE.
The Immigration Law office of Popkin, Shamir & Golan believes that it performs a service to the community by providing information about immigration scams that have been exposed, with a warning that there will always be new scams.
Marrying an American citizen is an easy and fast way to get a Green Card. But if the marriage is not for real - if it is only for the purpose of getting a Green Card - if it is a sham marriage - the alien may end up with some bad surprises.
First: Immigration Officers are very smart. At the very least - they are very experienced. They know a sham marriage when they see one.
Second: With the slightest suspicion, the Immigration Officer has various tools to expose the sham
(a) separate questioning of the alien and American citizen spouse;
(b) delay in making the decision, which causes the American spouse to lose patience and to abandon the game and
(c) field investigation, sending investigators to visit the couple at home at odd hours, to talk with neighbors, landlord, employer, also serves to expose the truth.
Third: The American spouse may become the enemy of the alien, by subjecting the alien to all kinds of threats and blackmail.
Fourth: Even if the alien succeeds and a Green Card is issued, in most cases it would be a conditional residency, good for two (2) years only. Then the alien together with the American spouse must submit a joint Application To Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) and convince the Immigration Service again of the viability of the marriage. If a joint application is not possible, the alien may submit the application by himself and must convince the Immigration Service that the marriage was a good, real marriage and that it was not the alien's fault that it fell apart.
Fifth: If the alien fails at any of these steps, not only would the Green Card be denied and a Removal (Deportation) case started, but the alien would also be branded as guilty of marriage fraud (sham marriage) and no other petition would ever be approved on behalf of the alien.
To sum it up: You may hear fantastic stories how somebody else succeeded in getting a Green Card by an arranged marriage. May be. But you better not try it - it is not worth the risks and the troubles you may get.
FIANCÉ/FIANCEE VISA (K-1 VISAS)
This is a very special visa, issued by American Consuls overseas to aliens who have a boyfriend/girlfriend in the United States with firm intent to get married immediately. The K-1 visa comes with a condition: The alien must marry the American citizen petitioner within ninety (90) days after arriving in the United States. An alien who comes to America on a K-1 visa and does not marry the petitioner within 90 days, is in a very bad situation. The law prohibits giving a Green Card to such an alien, even if the alien marries another U.S. citizen. Such a K-1 alien is doomed to live in the United States as an illegal alien for endless time.
If the K-1 alien does marry the petitioner within 90 days of arrival, the Green Card would be "conditional" and an Application for Removal of Conditions (Form I-751) would be required by the end of two (2) years. Therefore, if the relationship with the petitioner is not genuine, if there is no real intention to get married and establish a family, coming to the United States on a K-1 visa is not a good idea.
Aliens are anxious to get an Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Having this card permits the bearer to get a Social Security number, a Driver's License - and to be employed legally in the United States.
The scammers may use a simple scam or a sophisticated scam. Simple Scam: The scammer fills out an Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765) on behalf of the alien and mails it in to the Benefit Center with a money order for $380.00 (purchased by the alien) to cover the filing fee. An official receipt may arrive soon, to prove to the alien that the "consultant" did what he promised to do. And then, after the Receipt - Nothing. Why?
Because the Benefit Center cannot find a basis on which to issue an Employment Permit. An EAD (Employment Authorization Document) may be issued only if there is a legitimate application for immigration status pending at the U.S.CIS. The results: The alien lost money.
Sophisticated Scam: The scammer gets from the alien some personal documents (passport, birth certificate, etc.) and prepares and files an Application for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) together with a Family based Petition (Form I-130) by an American Spouse. What spouse? The scammer creates a fake Marriage Certificate showing the alien had married an imaginary American citizen, supported with a forged Birth Certificate of the non-existent U.S. citizen spouse. All this is done without the knowledge of the alien (most aliens would not participate in such a fraud if it is known to them). However, the Benefits Center will accept these documents when they look genuine enough, with Filing Fees in a total amount of $1490.00, and will mail the alien an Employment Permit (EAD). And then?
A few months later the alien will receive an Interview Notice for an interview with his spouse (and with documents to prove the bona fides of the marriage). The befuddled unmarried alien would try to contact the "consultant" to ask "what Spouse?", and the "consultant" - if found at all - would advise the alien: "Don't go to this interview". (There were some aliens, actually married to spouses who are aliens too, who innocently attended the interview with their alien spouse - to the astonishment of the Immigration Officer). The results (in addition to a loss of a great amount of money): (a) The application is denied and no extensions or renewals of the one-time Employment Permit would be available: (b) A Notice To Appear (NTA) in Immigration Court would be issued and the alien faces the immediate risk of deportation (and more expenses for defense); (c) The alien is found guilty of visa fraud and marriage fraud, and probably loses all chances to ever get a Green Card.
GREEN CARD BY TIME
The scammer tells the alien that he or she is eligible for a Green Card (Permanent Residency) because the alien has been in the United States for ten (10) years and has a child (or children) born in America. The scammer adds an explanation that this special procedure requires filing an application for Political Asylum.
What is going on?
Immigration law permits an Application for Cancellation of Removal (Form EOIR-42), previously known as "Suspension of Deportation". The alien must meet three requirements:
(a) Ten years of presence in the United States;
(b) Good moral character (mainly - no criminal record), and
(c) Hardship - to a spouse, child or parent who is an American citizen or legal resident.
The first two requirements are relatively easy. The last requirement is very, very difficult, because the level of "hardship" must be very, very high. However, this is not the only difficulty: Applications for Cancellation of Removal can be filed only if the alien is in Removal Proceedings (deportation) in Immigration Court.
How to get there?
By filing a "frivolous" application for Political Asylum ("frivolous" is an application which has no basis and no chance to succeed). The results (in addition to the loss of a great amount of money):
(a) The alien is in Removal Proceedings in Immigration Court (and is required to spend extra money for the services of a lawyer connected with the scammer);
(b) The alien is accused of making a frivolous and fraudulent application for Political Asylum);
(c) The application for Cancellation of Removal usually fails;
(d) an Order of Removal (Deportation) usually follows.
EMPLOYMENT BASED IMMIGRATION
The scammer promises the alien two services:
(a) To obtain an immigrant visa (Green Card) or a working visa (H-1B) based on the skills of the alien, and
(b) To locate an employer willing to sponsor the alien by providing the required offer of employment.
For the alien this is a very expensive scam, because the alien needs to pay not only the scammer who operates, sometimes, as an "employment agency", but also the sponsoring "employer" and the lawyer who sometimes co-operates with the scammer. The results (in addition to the loss of a great amount of money):
(a) The alien is usually found guilty of visa fraud, because of all fictitious information put on the application by the scammer, and because of the lack of any real intention to be employed by the bogus "sponsor";
(b) The alien usually ends up in Removal proceedings in Immigration Court.
Preparing an application for Political Asylum (Form I-589) is "easy": The alien needs no petitioner, no close relative in the United States, no Priority Date, no offer of employment, no Affidavit of Support. All the alien needs is a "story" why he or she is afraid to return to the home county. The scammer will provide the "story". Here is a description how a scam like this is usually set up. We copy it word-by-word (except names) from a decision issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on July 1, 2011: "In April 2002, alien retained a "notario" and an attorney to represent her. Alien communicated primarily with "notario", who told her that the attorney would represent her for $2,000. Alien first met attorney at a removal hearing on April 16, 2002. He did not ask her any questions about her case. The Immigration Judge (IJ) set alien's removal hearing for November 5, 2003. Alien had no contact with attorney between April 16, 2002 and November 3, 2003; during that time, she met notario once, for the sole purpose of paying him $750.00 in attorney's fees. On November 3, 2003, two days before alien's scheduled hearing, she met attorney in the foyer of an office building. Attorney asked alien whether she had any money and whether she wanted to continue the case. When alien insisted on proceeding with the hearing, attorney instructed her to meet him in court and "be ready". He did not ask any questions about her case, describe the hearing process, help prepare alien to testify, or provide information about asylum law. " The results: (1) The application for Political Asylum was denied by the Immigration Judge and the alien was ordered "removed" (deported). (2) She hired another attorney to file an appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Washington D.C. The appeal was denied. (3) She hired a third attorney to file a petition for review to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, with a claim that she was eligible to get a Green Card by a petition of her American Citizen daughter. (4) The Court of Appeals agreed to cancel alien's deportation and ordered her case back to the BIA (and hopefully to the Immigration Judge), to decide on her eligibility for a Green Card. (5) The alien has been entangled in this "web" since April 2002. It is still unknown when - if ever- she might get a Green Card. All this was totally unnecessary. All this happened to alien only because of the greed and dishonesty of the notario and the attorney who worked with him.
U.S. GOVERNMENT WARNINGS - June 2011
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (U.S.CIS) published in June 2011 a study on Immigration scams. In part, it says as follows: Common Immigration Services Scam: The typical immigration services scam involves a scammer deceiving immigrants into believing that they qualify for an immigration benefit for which they are actually ineligible. In some instances, the scammer will file benefit applications on behalf of their victims, knowing that the applications will be denied. In other instances, the scammer will take the victim's money, but file nothing with USCIS. The amount of money taken from immigrants in such scams can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Scammers often set up businesses in areas with large immigrant populations, typically within their own ethnic communities, and may charge lower fees than licensed attorneys in order to lure victims to their scams.
Conversely, some scammers charge exorbitant fees, based on fraudulent claims that they have a special relationship with the government or can obtain immigration benefits faster than normal. Often, these individuals advertise by word of mouth, through flyers, the internet, and paid advertisements in the phone book, newspaper, and on the radio. A common immigration services scam that occurs in Spanish -speaking immigrant communities involves notarios, who are referred to as notaries within the U.S. In many Latin American countries, in order to be a licensed notary, an individual must also be a licensed attorney, which is not the case in the U.S. Scammer "notarios" exploit immigrants' misunderstanding of this difference in order to defraud them.
Other common immigration services scams involve tax preparers who offer "immigration services", and travel agents who offer to provide advice, for a fee, on how to stay in the U.S. after one's nonimmigrant visa has expired.
Scammers are increasingly using the internet to lure victims to their scams. Many scam websites look very professional and often have domain names that are very similar to those of federal government websites. This sites often charge for USCIS forms, use online wizards to make complex decisions about which USCIS forms to select, and charge for materials that are available for free from USCIS. In some cases, attorneys are complicit in immigration serves scams, selling their names and license numbers to paralegals, notaries, and others who then advertise themselves as attorneys.