Dishonest immigration consultants often defraud consumers by charging fees for illegal or misleading services including giving phony legal advice, claiming to have inside “connections” or encouraging consumers to lie on their applications.
Consumers who deal with these people often lose their money and can hurt their chances to adjust their immigration status.
Immigration consultants may include: “notarios”, paralegals or anyone offering immigration-related services. No matter what they call themselves, immigration consultants must follow the law.
To perform immigration services, an immigration consultant must:
1. Prove they are bonded:
Immigration consultants must show you proof they have filed a $100,000 bond with the California Secretary of State before they offer you service. Check whether an immigration consultant is bonded or if their bond is valid at the Secretary of State’s website.
2. Display visible signs in their office that state:
The immigration consultant is not an attorney.
The immigration consultant’s name and bond number.
The services they provide and a list of total fees for each service.
3. Give you a written contract:
The contract must:
- Be written in English and your native language.
- List all the services they will provide and the total cost of the work.
- Be signed and dated by the immigration consultant.
Do not sign the contract or any other document if you do not understand it.
You are entitled to a full refund if you cancel the contract in writing within 72 hours of signing it. After that time you can still get at least a partial refund.
4. Give you a receipt:
The receipt must be typed or printed from a computer. It must include how much you paid, the date you paid, and the immigration consultant’s signature.
So, what can an immigration consultant do for me?
Consumers can receive minimal services from an immigration consultant, even though some charge many thousands of dollars.
Immigration consultants can:
- Translate documents.
- Get necessary documents.
- Fill out the applications you specifically choose.
- Refer you to an attorney, but not charge you for it.
- Deliver your completed forms to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Immigration consultants cannot:
- Give you legal advice.
- Tell you how to qualify for your case.
- Tell you which forms you must prepare or suggest how you prepare a form.
- Guarantee you a specific result or state that they can get “special favors” with USCIS.
- Say they are a “notario publico“.
- Keep your original documents.
- Charge you any fees for services related to Comprehensive Immigration Reform until after such law passes.
Who should I get help from with my immigration case?
We recommend you work with a licensed lawyer who specializes in immigration law.
The Board of Immigration Appeals has a list of immigration lawyers who work for free or for little cost. Find this list online here.
Or, you can get a referral by calling the Los Angeles County Bar Lawyer Referral at (213) 243-1525.
I’m a victim of immigration services fraud. Who can help?
If you believe you have been victimized by an immigration consultant, call us at (800) 593-8222.