Know Your Rights







How to avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud


Many immigration consultants are honest and can provide good services to immigrants. However, there are certain people who take advantage of immigrants by giving inaccurate or wrong advice. Before seeking help with your immigration process, remember: Only accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board of Immigration Appeals or BIA) or a lawyer representative can give legal advice and represent you before the various immigration services. "Notaries" or Public Notaries are not attorneys in the United States. They cannot give legal advice.


Which is an organization recognized by the BIA?


Organizations recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) are community organizations, religious, charitable or other nonprofit organizations that have met the requirements of the BIA to provide legal advice. They have registered with the BIA and can only charge modest fees. Accredited representatives work for such organizations, and are allowed to give legal advice on immigration matters. This does not mean they have a privileged relationship with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or applications that process receive special treatment.


A profit company or private enterprise cannot be recognized by the BIA and the staff cannot give legal advice without being licensed attorney.


Avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud. Before consulting someone on immigration and before spending your money, consider the following:


  • Be wary of consultants, travel agencies, real estate offices and people who identify themselves as "notaries" that offer immigration services. Check their experience and ask to see copies of accreditation by the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board of Immigration Appeals), the American Association of Immigration Lawyers, or certification by the American Bar Association. Some people who say they are qualified to offer legal services are not. These people can make mistakes that will cause serious problems.


  • If you decide to hire someone as your counselor or legal representative on immigration issues, get a written contract. The contract must be written in English or a language you understand. The contract shall specify all services to be provided as well as its cost. Ask for references before signing the contract.


  • No private organization or private person offering help with immigration issues has a special relationship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If someone says they do or express exaggerated promises, do not believe them. Do not trust people who guarantee results or faster processing. If you do not qualify to receive an immigration benefit, you can not change the situation with the help of a lawyer or immigration consultant.


  • Avoid paying cash for services. Be sure to get a receipt and keep your original documents. Never sign a blank form or application. Make sure you understand what you are signing.


  • Avoid people who guarantee a visa lottery. Some companies and lawyers falsely offer their services by ensuring that:

    • They are affiliated with the US Government

    • They have a special form to participate in the visa lottery

    • They have never rejected a form submitted by the company

    • Their company can increase the odds of a participant to "win" the lottery

    • Even those from non-eligible countries may be "qualified" to enter the lottery

If you fall victim of a scam. Call the prosecutor's office, the office of consumer protection in your state or locality or local police department. In California, you can call the office of the Secretary of State.

Scammers endanger the applicant by filing several entries into the lottery and often charge a lot of money. In fact, the State Department offers information on the Internet about the visa lottery and one can sign up there alone without charge. For more information about scams lottery visas, see the site of the Department of Commerce.

Avoid sites scammers


Beware of websites posing as US government sites. They may have similar to those of government agencies, official-looking emblems (flags or other national images like the Statue of Liberty or the US Capitol), official seals or logos, and links to other government sites names. If the Internet does not end in ".gov" it is not a US government website. Fake sites may charge for government forms. Do not pay. Forms and instructions for their completion are issued free of charge by a US government agency



Consumer Guide, Federal Center for Public Information (US FCIC)