We have all heard stories of the complicated immigration and citizenship system in the U.S. Getting permanent residency or a Green Card is a long and arduous process, and it can be extremely stressful.
But the solution is never in quick-fix fast-tracking claims made by fraudsters. Immigration fraud is one of the most prevalent and dangerous crimes targeted at immigrants. Sometimes, the scams are so sophisticated that they almost pass as authentic.
As a newcomer to the U.S., you must be vigilant about immigration fraud to protect yourself and your family from its financial and legal consequences. Here’s how you can identify and report immigration-related scams.
Types of Immigration Fraud
- Charging fees for free services
The U.S. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or any other official immigration agency does not charge any fees for forms and applications. Unfortunately, many immigrants are unaware of this, and scammers capitalize on their ignorance by charging them large amounts for documents that can be obtained free of cost.
- Claims of expediting visa or immigration status
Only the DHS, the State Department, and U.S. embassies have the right to issue immigration certificates, visa extensions, and green cards. The application and processing time are the same for each person, and cannot be expedited externally. Scammers often claim to have insider connections in these agencies, and offer to hurry your application along for a fee. This is impossible to do, and anyone offering such a service is defrauding you and the system.
- Deceptive advertising
Scammers target newcomers who might not be comfortable with English. They make inaccurate claims about the contents of immigration rules and laws. They will try to convince you that the sole means of attaining the right legal documentation is through their services. Otherwise, you could face fines or imprisonment. This borders on extortion, so do not accept unverified claims blindly.
- Diversity visa scams
Fraudulent organizations send emails to applicants of the Diversity Visa (visa lottery) program to pay a fee for their bid to have a better chance of being selected. All lottery visas are drawn randomly, and the “winners” can only check their status on the DV Entrant Status Check website. Once a bid is submitted, no third party can influence its status.
- Community affinity scams
Fraudsters regularly target immigrants from their own community or ethnicity, and promise to handle their documentation process. Many immigrants who fall prey to such scams report that they blindly trusted a friendly individual from their community who offered to “help” with their visas.
How to Identify Immigration Fraud?
- Fraudulent emails
All official emails about your visa, including application status, appointments, and payment receipts are sent from U.S. government email addresses ending with “.gov.” If you receive an email claiming to be from the immigration authorities that does not end with a “.gov” suffix, it is clearly a scam, and you should immediately flag it.
The same suffix applies to government websites. These are some examples of legitimate websites where you can find all the information you need about the application process: U.S. Embassy and Consulate (https://www.usembassy.gov/), U.S. Diversity Visa Program (https://dvprogram.state.gov), Department of Homeland Security (https://www.dhs.gov), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (https://www.uscis.gov).
If you come across a website that looks official and has the appropriate logo, contacts, and layout, always check for the “.gov” suffix. If it does not have the right suffix, it is most certainly a scam website.
- Unusual payment methods
The government will never ask you to make a payment via money order, cash, or check in a location other than the concerned agency’s office. You will receive a payment receipt with your application ID.
One sign of scammers is seemingly strange payment requests. For example, the scam service might ask you to transfer the USCIS application fees via PayPal or Western Union. This should ring alarm bells in your head.
- The claim is too good to be true
If a private “immigration service” offers you guaranteed results like a green card, permanent residency, or work visa within a few weeks, make sure to stay far away. No individual outside an official agency can guarantee that your application will go through successfully.
If you see signs of immigration fraud, report it to the relevant authorities immediately. This will bring the perpetrators to justice and save hundreds of innocent immigrants from falling for their schemes.
In case of internet and email frauds, report them to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the Department of Justice. Contact your local Attorney General’s Office if you believe that you have been a victim of an immigration scam.
General Tips to Stay Safe from Fraud
- Don’t go to a public notary (often calling themselves “notarios”) for legal advice. Seek advice from the USCIS or the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for official legal assistance.
- Never submit your original documents to any organization or agency. You will have to bring your original documents, like your passport and birth certificate, to your appointment at the State Department or Consulate, but you will never be asked to submit them.
- Never sign a blank form. Always know what you are signing. If you are unsure of what an application means, seek help from a USCIS operator.
- You will never receive deportation threats from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) claiming to deport you or your family members unless you pay them a sum of money.
- Keep every receipt you get from the USCIS. You can keep track of your application, and it is also proof that you have submitted the required documents.
Immigration fraud can permanently ruin your financial status, and worse, prevent you from getting legal status in the U.S. in the future. Be mindful of these precautions against scammers. Keeping yourself informed is the best way to protect yourself and your family.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?