CONSUMER ALERT - FALSE CLAIMS OF USCIS ACCREDITATION
Evaluating immigration services is as important as when evaluating any purchase of business-related services. It is always in your best interest to understand the terms and conditions you will be agreeing to in relation to the services you will be receiving.
There are immigration companies out there that will not provide the services as they describe. These companies are immigration scams. The information provided here is intended to help you:
(i) make the right choice when you require help with your immigration application or petition;
(ii) locate and identify educational resources that are available; and
(iii) avoid falling victim to an immigration scam.
Identifying immigration-related services that are actually immigration scams can be done in many ways. For example, blogs may be a good way to gain knowledge on immigration service companies; however, blogs are often used as a competitive tool to drive business away from other companies. Immigration companies, or any company for that matter, may pay individuals to post false information (mostly anonymous) about other immigration service companies. The best suggestion is to always read the terms and conditions available on the site before doing business or purchasing any type of service. Legitimate companies generally will post their terms and conditions and have contact information, including a legitimate telephone number and an email address to reach their customer service department.
You should be particularly aware of immigration scam sites that post purported certifications and the meaning of those certifications, which can often be misconceived.
For example, many providers will claim that they are accredited by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to appear before the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In many instances, these immigration providers either are not accredited, or are charging a premium fee for services for which a USCIS-accredited provider is not needed. These providers may possibly be involved in immigration scams and should be avoided.
Further, please keep in mind that while only a licensed attorney or USCIS-accredited representative may represent you in proceedings before the Board or DHS, any individual may assist someone who requires assistance in filling out their USCIS immigration application or petition. However, if someone actually helps an applicant fill out his or her application or petition, that individual must sign the application or petition stating that they assisted the applicant in preparing the document at the applicant's request.
Accordingly, before you decide to work with an immigration attorney or a USCIS-accredited representative regarding your immigration application or petition, you should do your homework. There are many options and resources available that provide self-help, step-by-step instructions on Green Cards, U.S. Citizenship and Visas. Educational information is also available in the form of immigration e-books and multi-language DVDs that make it easier to understand the process in your native language.
Avoid Immigration Scams
If you choose to work with an immigration attorney or a USCIS-accredited representative, here are some helpful tips to avoid being a victim of what could possibly be an immigration scam.
The following are various ways to verify if an immigration attorney or a USCIS-accredited representative is eligible to legally represent you before the USCIS and avoid being entangled in an immigration scam:
- Individuals can check with the Bar Association in each state in which an attorney claims to be licensed to ensure an attorney is properly licensed to practice law.
- Individuals interested in using an accredited representative authorized by the USCIS and the Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) to assist with an immigration application and petition should always request to see the BIA order granting permission to perform such assistance.
- Individuals should never sign blank applications, petitions or other documents.
- Individuals should never sign documents they do not understand.
- Individuals should never sign documents with inaccurate or false information.
- Individuals should always get a receipt for services or assistance rendered.
- Individuals should always obtain copies of all documents prepared or filed on their behalf.
It is very important to understand the immigration process and its intricacies in order to navigate it successfully. A lot of legitimate information is available to educate you about immigration, such as in the form of e-books and DVDs that are recommended as a good safe guard before getting started.
The more you know about the immigration process, the less likely you are to be a victim of an immigration scam.