VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 2 POSTED ON: 1/20/2011
Immigrants to the U.S. face huge obstacles from the U.S. government. Most are aware of this problem. But they often don't recognize another type of obstacle: being defrauded by people they hire to help them - lawyers, immigration consultants, visa consultants, translators, and notarios. For example: Juan wanted to get his green card to live in the U.S. with his wife, Maria, and their two young children. To be sure they wouldn't make a mistake, they hired Emilio. Emilio called himself an "immigration consultant." Emilio told Juan to go to Ciudad Juarez for an interview. He would get his green card, Emilio assured the couple, and he would return to the U.S. as a permanent resident. Juan was devastated to learn he could not return with a green card. In fact, he could not return at all for the next 10 years. Juan's case is not unusual. Every year thousands of immigrants are sabotaged by the professionals they hire in good faith. Immigration fraud involves more than just money. Following advice of a fraudulent advisor can cost you the opportunity to remain in the U.S. Here are 5 ways to avoid becoming a victim of immigration fraud. (1) Do not assume that a stranger who speaks your language will care for you like a brother. Even if he comes from your village, he may not be qualified to help you navigate the rocky road to permanent residency. Sadly, many people who commit fraud will count on the immigrant's feelings of friendship. (2) Do not hire anyone who promises you will win your case or gain any specific outcome. Never hire anyone who uses the word "guarantee." Even the best, most ethical immigration lawyers do not win every single case. Many factors, beyone the lawyer's control, will affect the outcome. (3) Do not hire anyone who claims to have an inside connection to the immigration authorities. You might be getting involved with an illegal immigration fraud scheme - and you could end serving time in a U.S. federal prison. Anyway, the U.S. system involves so many levels of approval that no one "insider" can make a difference. (4) Refuse to lie or make up facts on any documents you submit to the U.S. government. An ethical lawyer will advise you about what you are not required to disclose. But he or she will also warn you not to lie about your home country, entry dates, marriage, arrests, or anything else. The U.S. government is very efficient when it comes to fact-finding. Most likely the government will learn the truth and you will be denied residency or even deported with little hope of reversing the decision. You might even be charged with criminal fraud, leading to jail time and fines. (5) When you hire someone to prepare immigration papers, ask, "Will you sign the papers as my preparer?" If the answer is no, you are probably not working with a licensed lawyer. You need to stop the process and hire an attorney or else make sure an attorney reviews your papers before you submit them. A single careless error can destroy your chances of permanent residency - sometimes forever. So what can you do to protect yourself? Research your advisor's qualifications. In the U.S., an attorney will be identified as a lawyer or attorney. You can verify his or her qualifications by calling your state's Bar Association. Be especially cautious when working with a "visa consultant" or "notario." Check references and hire only those who explain clearly, "I am not a lawyer. I encourage you to have my work reviewed by a qualified immigration lawyer." Finally, remember that those who prey on immigrants will assume you are scared. They hope you will be too scared to report them to the authorities. Your best protection is to choose the right lawyer at the very beginning of your journey to U.S. residence and refuse to deal with anyone else.
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