Know Your Rights!

Anyone offering immigration help must follow certain laws. These are some of the most important ones.

Any person who says he/she is a lawyer must have a license from the State Bar of any state. You can ask to see his/her license and write down the number, and you can call the State Bar where he/she is licensed to find out if the license is valid. A person who does immigration papers but is not a lawyer is called an immigration consultant.

An immigration consultant must obey these laws:

  1. Give you a written contract that:
    • is in your own language
    • says you can cancel for any reason within 72 hours
    • that says how much money you have to pay
    • that says what kind of application the person will file for you
  2. Pay a $50,000 bond to the Secretary of State and give you proof of the bond.
  3. Have a big sign in his/her office saying he/she is not an attorney and show that the bond has been paid.
  4. Never pretend to be a lawyer.
  5. Never say he/she has special influence on the INS.
  6. Never file any document for you without going over it with you and explaining it to you.
  7. Never keep your original documents and refuse to return them unless you pay.
  8. Never tell you to lie on an application.

What to do if someone has cheated you:
If the person cheating you is a lawyer, call the State Bar where he is licensed. In New York, that number is 1-518-463-3200.

If the person cheating you is not a lawyer, you can call

  • The Attorney General of the United States: 1-888-587-0557.
  • Your city’s police department or district attorney’s office.

Watch Out for Immigration Scams!

Be careful when getting someone to help you with your immigration papers. Don’t be fooled by false promises. You could lose your money AND be removed or deported from the United States.

If someone says:

  • We can get you work permits right away
  • We offer no-risk immigration
  • We can get US visas for you and your family in a few weeks
  • We know people at USCIS and can get your papers done quickly


Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Never sign any blank application papers.
  • Never sign any paper or immigration form that you do not fully understand. (Get someone you trust to translate it for you.)
  • Never sign any documents that contain false or inaccurate information.
  • Always demand a written contract for any immigration services when you are not working with a recognized agency.
  • Never sign a contract that you don’t understand.
  • Watch out for anyone who wants you to pay immediately.
  • Always get copies of the papers prepared for you.
  • Never let anyone keep your original documents (example: birth certificates, marriage certificates).
  • Do not pay more than a nominal fee to someone who is not an attorney or make payments on the internet.
  • Get a receipt for any money you pay. (Make sure it has the amount paid, the date paid, your name, and the name of the person or business that you paid.)
  • Never work with someone who will not answer your questions.
  • Verify that your attorney is licensed or your representative is accredited by the BIA.

Further Warning. . .

Some people, such as notaries public, immigration consultants and lawyers, assure undocumented persons that they can obtain work authorizations or green cards because they have lived in the country for ten years or more.

Many people refer to this as short-term documentation or documentation for the time being. However, this is incorrect. The law these people are mistakenly referring to pertains to cancellations of removal and CAN ONLY BE GRANTED BY A JUDGE DURING A DEPORTATION HEARING.

This law provides a remedy only to those persons who are in deportation proceedings. It is very difficult to obtain relief from removal through cancellation of removal, largely due to the need to demonstrate more than just the ten-year residency requirement. This form of relief against deportation only applies to persons who have a spouse, child, or parent who is a citizen or permanent resident. In order to obtain a cancellation of removal in this manner, one must prove that the citizen or resident family member would suffer “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship” if deportation goes forward. Because this last requirement is so difficult to demonstrate, many such cases are denied.


Prepared the by Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

More Information

PLEASE NOTE: Immigration law and regulations change frequently. In order to protect yourself, you should make sure that you understand the laws and how they apply to you. If you have questions about your status, you should consult an expert. If you would like to be notified of recent changes to this website, or if you would like to receive Immigration Tips by email, please provide us with your email address. If you would like help from Ms. Chappell-Daly, please contact her.