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?
- Lawyers are required to register with the bar association in each state where they practice. You can check the attorney registration online to see if your lawyer is registered. In New York State you can search attorney registration to see if the name is listed.
- 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 is. 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?
- Ask for a copy of everything that you sign
- Check to see that your immigration lawyer is registered with a state bar association.
- Check to see if your immigration lawyer is a member of AILA.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don’t listen to anyone who says they can file an application now for undocumented parents of US citizens 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!