BBB Warns About Immigration Service Scams

Created: 31 October, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Ana Gomez Salcido

Whether it is to renew a Green Card, become a citizen, or find the appropriate documents to legalize their status, those migrating to the U.S. should be aware of scammers claiming they are immigration lawyers or affiliated with the U.S. Government.

Victims of immigration services scams often face a huge loss of both time and money, while also increasing their risk of being detained or deported by U.S. officials if they are not provided legal counsel by an authorized entity.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) shares some important tips to avoid immigration services scams like visiting official U.S. Government websites, when looking for immigration help. Potential victims might run across what looks like government websites – but are actually scammers pretending to be part of the U.S. Federal Government. Real government websites end with the suffix .gov.

Another of the BBB tips includes not using Western Union or PayPal as payment for immigration fees. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will never ask to transfer money to an individual. In addition, they will never ask an immigrant to pay fees to a person on the phone or by email. Immigrants pay some immigration fees online only if they use the myUSCIS site.

Immigrants need to ensure companies and individuals are authorized to give legal advice. Only an attorney or an accredited representative, member of the bar in their state and working for a Department of Justice recognized organization, can provide legal advice. People can visit the Executive Office or Immigration Review (EOIR) website for the List of Accredited Representatives and Recognized Organizations. And also check the List of Currently Disciplined Practitioners who are not allowed to practice law.

People should also avoid using a public notary for legal advice. While the word “notario” may refer to a powerful attorney in many Latin American countries, in the U.S., notarios are not lawyers and they are not authorized to provide legal advice.

Immigrants should also beware of companies and individuals who guarantee Visas, Green Cards or Employment Authorization Documents. Qualified immigration attorneys and representatives know that each case is unique, and that there is never an absolute guarantee that the applicant will receive the green card or other immigration benefit that he or she is seeking.

The BBB also recommends never paying for blank government forms. Government forms are free, even though there is a charge associated with submitting the forms to USCIS. Free immigration forms can be found at USCIS’ website or by calling 1-800-870-3676. Consumers can also visit a local USCIS office to obtain free immigration forms.

If someone has been a victim of a scam, they are encourage to report it to the Federal Trade Commission, and to BBB scam trackers to avoid other from becoming victims of these legal frauds.