No Immigration Status? Make a Plan


No Immigration Status? Make a Plan

There is no way to know what actions the new administration will take concerning immigration after January 20, 2017. It is possible that many undocumented immigrants will be arrested and placed in immigration detention centers. If that happens to you, it will be important for you and your family to have back-up plans in place.


If you are undocumented (without immigration status in the US) you may want to take some of the following steps to protect yourself and your family in case you arrested by Immigration.

  1. If you are eligible to apply for any immigration status in the US, you should apply as soon as possible. For example, if you are married to a US citizen, and you entered the US with a visa, you may apply for a green card in the US. If this applies to you, and you file before you are arrested, you may be able to be released from immigration custody.
  1. Make sure someone you trust has your personal information, so that they can find out where you are being held and/or communicate with you if you are deported. This information includes;
  • Accurate spelling of your name, including your middle name and any other names used
  • Birthday
  • Social Security number (if any)
  • Address and other contact information outside the US, including the names of relatives or friends who may receive mail on your behalf
  • Other contact information for you such as an e-mail address, or the phone number of relatives or friends in the US
  • Copies of any notices you may have received from USCIS or the Immigration Court
    • These papers will contain your A number, if you have one. This will make it easier for your relatives to locate you. Not everyone has an A number.
  1. If you have children in the US, you will need to have a plan in place for their care.
  • Custody or Guardianship Plans
  • Designate someone to care for your children in an emergency
  • Consult a family law attorney about custody or guardianship in case you are detained
  • If no parent or relative is available to take custody or guardianship of your children, it is important to make sure that whoever cares for your children has the legal power to make decisions for them concerning medical care and education. The documents below may be important:
  • Power of attorney for health care and education for your children
  • Power of attorney for finances for your children
  1. Make a will, or update your will, so that your husband, wife or children will have a legal claim to your assets.
  1. Designate/Update beneficiaries on pension or retirement accounts and life insurance policies
  1. Beware of immigration scams. During a time of uncertainty, it is even more important to be on the lookout for immigration scams. Those who are at risk of getting arrested and deported are more likely to be targeted by scam artists who try to sell their phony services to those who have no options for staying in the US. They do this by:
  • Filing applications that include false information. It is very important that all the information included on an immigration application be truthful and accurate. If you file a form that includes false information, or for a benefit for which you are not eligible, it may make it impossible for you to file immigration applications later.
  • Providing fake documents, such as a fake green card, or a fake driver’s license. If you give false documents to an immigration officer, you may never be able to return to the US, even if you become eligible to apply for immigration status in the future.
  1. In most cases, if you entered the US without inspection at the border (you did not answer questions from an inspector) or you overstayed your period of admission (stamped in your passport) you will not be able to file an immigration application in the US. In some cases, you may be able to file an immigration application from your home country.
  1. To help you look at your immigration choices, or plan for future immigration to the US, we strongly recommend that you consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. If you want to schedule an appointment for a consultation with a lawyer from our office, click on contact us.


  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is probably not true.
  • Immigration officers do not call people on the phone asking for money.
  • You cannot “buy” a valid green card or social security card.
  • You must be eligible to apply for a green card, usually because you have a close relative or an employer who may file an application for you.
  • Do not be tricked by rumors and bad information.
  • Protect yourself and your children by planning for the future.

Be Careful of Immigration Scams


USCIS issued a new warning about immigration scams. If someone calls you about an immigration application and asks for personal information or money to “fix” a problem with your application do not provide the information or a payment.  Instead report the call to USCIS.  For more information on immigration scams and how to report problems click on scams

How can I tell if I am working with a real lawyer?

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 How can I tell if I am working with a real immigration lawyer? Do not end up like the victims of immigration scams in this sad story of someone who pretended to be an immigration lawyer and scammed immigrants out of thousands of dollars,  see immigration scam.  Howard Seidler promised a green card and a social security number, but took the money and never filed anything. This is all too common where people are desperate for immigration papers and vulnerable to immigration scams. When you pay someone to file an immigration application make sure you are working with a real lawyer.

How can you tell if the person you are working with is a real lawyer?

1. Lawyers are required to register with the bar association in each state where they practice. You can check the attorney registration on-line to see if your lawyer is registered.  In New York State you can search attorney registration to see if the name is listed.

2. For immigration lawyers you can also check the website for the American Immigration Lawyers Association to see if your lawyer is a member of AILA.  The American Immigration Lawyers Association is a valuable resource for immigration lawyers and for the public. Lawyers, who are members, receive  daily updates on new developments in immigration. Members of the public can access the public AILA website for information on immigration,  and for information on immigration lawyers who are members of AILA.

As the old saying goes, if something is too good to be true, it probably isn’t. When you file an immigration application you need to be sure that you are eligible to apply and that the information on the application is true.  If you are not eligible, or the information on the forms is not true, you could be deported, or even worse, prosecuted for filing a false form and then deported.

 How can I protect myself from immigration scams?

1. Ask for a copy of everything that you sign

2. Check to see that your immigration lawyer is registered with a state bar association.

3. Check to see if your immigration lawyer is a member of AILA.

4. Be careful if anyone filing applications for you guarantees that your application will be approved.  Lawyers are not allowed to make these kinds of promises.

5. If you are undocumented (sometimes called illegal) be even more careful.  In most cases immigrants who are  in the US without immigration papers, or  who have entered without papers (or with false papers) cannot stay in the US to apply for immigration status.

6. One exception to #5 above, is for people who entered the US before June 15, 2007 without papers and were under the age of 16 when they entered.  In that case, Two-Year Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) might be a possibility. For  more information on this see DACA Now.

7. Don’t listen to anyone who says they can file an application now for undocumented parents of US citizen or permanent resident children.  There is a new program for undocumented parents, but it is on hold while it is being challenged in court.  There is also an expanded form of DACA (Three-Year DACA) that may become available for those who have lived in the US without documents since June 1, 2010. This program is also being challenged in the courts and is not yet available.

Remember, it is you who will pay the price if you are working with a scam artist.  You may lose more than your money if the scammer files papers for you that include false information. If you cannot afford to pay for a consultation with a lawyer there are some programs that may be able to help you for free.  In the New York City area you can contact, LawHelpNY .  In the Syracuse, NY area you may be eligible for a free immigration consultation, contact the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County to make an appointment. Be careful out there!