Avoid Immigration Scams

Avoid Immigration Scams

Are you getting the right immigration help?

Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so. While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration services scam.

If you need help filing an application or petition with USCIS, be sure to seek assistance from the right place, and from people that are authorized to help. Going to the wrong place can:

  1. Delay your application or petition
  2. Cost you unnecessary fees
  3. Possibly lead to removal proceedings

This site can help you avoid immigration services scams. Remember: Know the facts when it comes to immigration assistance, because the Wrong Help Can Hurt.

Tools to Help You Avoid Scammers

USCIS wants to combat immigration services scams by equipping applicants, legal service providers and community-based organizations with the knowledge and tools they need to detect and protect themselves from dishonest practices.

To accomplish this goal, USCIS launched the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) Initiative. As part of the effort, we’ve partnered with several government agencies to identify resources that can help you avoid immigration services scams.

Empower yourself by using our online educational resources, which include:

Common Scams

On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam. Subscribe to the USCIS Executive Actions on Immigration web page to get updates when new information is posted.

If you need legal advice on immigration matters, make sure that the person you rely on is authorized to give you legal advice. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Board of Immigration Appeals-recognized organization can give you legal advice.

The Internet, newspapers, radio, community bulletin boards and storefronts are filled with advertisements offering immigration help. Not all of this information is from attorneys and accredited representatives. There is a lot of information that comes from organizations and individuals who are not authorized to give you legal advice, such as “notarios” and other unauthorized representatives. The wrong help can hurt. Here is some important information that can help you avoid common immigration scams.

Telephone Scams

Do not fall victim to telephone scammers posing as USCIS personnel or other government officials. In most instances, scammers will:

  • request personal information (Social Security number, Passport number, or A-number);
  • identify false problems with your immigration record; and
  • ask for payment to correct the records.

If a scammer calls you, say “No, thank you” and hang up. These phone calls are being made by immigration scammers attempting to take your money and your credit card information. USCIS will not call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone. Don’t give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official.

If you have been a victim of this telephone scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Learn more about telephone scams and telephone scammers’ techniques by visiting Federal Trade Commission-Telemarketing-Scams.

“Notario Publico”

In many Latin American countries, the term “notario publico” (for “notary public”) stands for something very different than what it means in the United States. In many Spanish-speaking nations, “notarios” are powerful attorneys with special legal credentials. In the U.S., however, notary publics are people appointed by state governments to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. “Notarios publico,” are not authorized to provide you with any legal services related to immigration.

Please see the National Notary Association website “What is a Notary Public” for more information.

Local Businesses

Some businesses in your community “guarantee” they can get you benefits such as a:

  • Visa
  • Green Card
  • Employment Authorization Document

These businesses sometimes charge you a higher fee to file the application than USCIS charges. They claim they can do this faster than if you applied directly with USCIS. These claims are false. There are few exceptions to the normal USCIS processing times.  Visit our National Processing Volumes and Trends page for more information.

Dot-com websites

Some websites offering step-by-step guidance on completing a USCIS application or petition will claim to be affiliated with USCIS. USCIS has its own official website with:

  • Free downloadable forms
  • Form Instructions
  • Information on filing fees and processing times

Do not pay for blank USCIS forms either in person or over the Internet.

Visa Lottery

Once a year, the Department of State (DOS) makes 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) available via random selection to persons meeting strict eligibility requirements and who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. During this time, it is common for immigration scammers to advertise in emails or websites that reference either the:

  • DV lottery
  • Visa lottery
  • Green Card lottery

These emails and websites often claim that they can make it easier to enter the annual Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, for a fee. Some even identify you as a DV lottery “winner.”

These emails and websites are fraudulent. The only way to apply for the DV lottery is through an official government application process. DOS does not send emails to applicants. Visit the Department of State website to verify if you are actually a winner in the DV lottery or for information on how to submit an application for a DV lottery visa.


To this day, some local businesses, websites and individuals make reference to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). This agency no longer exists!

INS was dismantled on March 1, 2003, and most of its functions were transferred from the Department of Justice to three new components within the newly formed Department of Homeland Security. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the component that grants immigration benefits. The other two components are U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

All official correspondence regarding your immigration case will come from USCIS.


About The Author

Chad Brandt

Chad M. Brandt, the People’s Immigration Lawyer, is the owner and founder of Brandt Immigration. Attorney Brandt has extensive litigation experience, allowing him to successfully represent clients in Immigration and Federal Courts. Mr. Brandt devotes a substantial portion of his immigration practice to deportation defense, both in Immigration Court and before deportation officers at Immigration Customs and Enforcement’s (ICE) Detention and Removal Offices throughout the U.S. Mr. Brandt also regularly represents individuals, families, and businesses in an expansive array of interviews and appearances before immigration officials.

1 Comment

  1. Vivir no es sólo existir, sino existir y crear, saber gozar y sufrir y no dormir sin soñar. Descansar, es empezar a morir.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *