Legal immigrants anxious over tightening U.S. controls may become the perfect victims for fraudsters who prey on the vulnerability of those involved in often complicated immigration procedures.
Some victims of these illegal schemes may simply lose a lot of money. But for others it’s even worse, because they could run into problems and even face deportation.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a warning to avoid common immigration scams, because wrong advice in preparing immigration paperwork can be prejudicial.
Registering for the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, commonly known as the visa lottery and administered by the U.S. Department of State is free. The registration date for the Fiscal 2020 lottery has not been announced.
The U.S. government never sends out emails announcing lottery winners. Any communication of that type is a fraud. The instructions for entering the lottery and verifying the 2018 and 2019 winners are found in this link.
Telephone or electronic payments
Immigrants may receive supposed USCIS notifications asking for payment of fees for processing paperwork. They are fraudulent.
USCIS does not accept Western Union or Pay Pal payments, and never asks to pay fees on the phone or by email.
USCIS now accepts credit card payments for only 41 fee-based forms and only through the portal MyUSCIS that provides a personalized account. All other payments must be paid with a money order or cashier’s check from a U.S. financial institution.
The Trump administration’s cancellation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua has plunged some of those families into despair and uncertainty.
The deadline for re-registering for TPS, which gave those immigrants legal status, has passed and therefore they don’t need to submit or pay for any new paperwork. This guide in Spanish offers helps on the next steps to follow for those who are losing their TPS status.
One of the most frequent mistakes made by immigrants is to resort to a notary public — known as notarios públicos in Spanish —, because in Latin America those people usually have special legal credentials. But in the United States a notary public is not an immigration attorney.
“A notario público is not authorized to provide you with any legal services related to immigration,” USCIS warned.
The web page of the American Immigration Lawyers Association offers a data base of accredited immigration lawyers.
Fraudulent internet pages
All forms required for immigration procedures can be downloaded for free.
Some web pages claim to be affiliated with USCIS and offer guidance for competing forms charging a fee for them.
The agency stressed that its official web page is USCIS.gov, and that all U.S. government web pages always end with the extension .gov
Job offers with visas
If a job offering a visa sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fraudsters often offer U.S. jobs and work visas to immigrants — for a fee.
Even if the offer turns out to be legitimate, foreigners are not allowed to work in the United States without a permanent residence, a work permit or a specialty visa.
Students and exchange visitors about to graduate from U.S. universities are specially easy prey for the fraudsters.
More details on these and other types of fraud are available in this link.