Don’t become a victim of dishonest immigration consultants often known as “notarios.” Immigration consultants, notaries public, and notarios cannot represent you in the immigration process. These people—especially notarios—prey on immigrants, often from the same ethnic community as the notarios thems WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO HELP IMMIGRANTS WITH THEIR LEGAL MATTERS? Only a licensed lawyer or accredited representative is authorized and qualified to assist you with your immigration case or green card application. Unlike consultants, immigration lawyers have completed extensive education and training before being licensed to represent clients. You can check whether an immigration lawyer is in good standing and licensed by contacting your state bar or state Supreme Court. You can also check to see if the immigration lawyer has been suspended or expelled from practice before the immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), or the immigration service (USCIS). Accredited representatives (who are not licensed lawyers but can provide limited assistance in immigration matters) must work for a Recognized Organization and be authorized by the BIA. Only those recognized organizations appearing on this list are allowed to help with immigration matters. These organizations must either provide their services for free, or must only charge a nominal (small) fee for their services. Ask to see a copy of the decision from the BIA granting official recognition to the organization. Also, check the lists of currently and previously disciplined practitioners to see if the accredited representative has been expelled or suspended from practice before the immigration courts or immigration service. It is against the law for notaries public to provide immigration advice–even filling out forms or a green card application is something that only a properly licensed immigration lawyer or accredited representative should do. Lawyers from another country who are not licensed in the United States also are not authorized by law to provide immigration services within the United States. Sometimes, a law student participating in a law school clinic, legal aid program, or through a non-profit organization may represent a person as described by regulation. PROTECT YOUR FAMILY’S DREAMS To avoid fraud, use your common sense. Many people hear what they want to hear–be smart! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t believe it if someone tells you about a secret new immigration law or claims to have connections or special influence with any government office or agency
- Don’t pay money to someone to refer you to an immigration lawyer
- Walk away if an immigration lawyer doesn’t have a license
- Never sign an application that contains false information, and try not to sign blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and check to make sure all the information is correct before it is filed
- Always get proof that your papers have been filed–ask for a copy or government filing receipt whenever anything is submitted in your case
- Insist on a written contract that spells out all fees and expenses and make sure you receive a receipt, especially if you pay cash. If terms change, get a written explanation
- Don’t let anyone “find” you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card–it’s illegal