Avoid Becoming the Victim of Immigration Fraud

“Immigration fraud” means immigration legal services-related scams that target vulnerable immigrant New Yorkers. Immigration fraud, as described here, can be by attorneys and non-attorneys.  It can also be by others who engage in other fraudulent acts such as phone scams and impersonations threatening immigration consequences. Immigration fraud is widespread in immigrant communities and the consequences can be severe – for those committing fraud and their victims. Below find more information on how to avoid becoming the victim of immigration fraud.   

How to Avoid Fraud

If you need immigration legal advice, only go to a lawyer or someone who is accredited by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) or an organization recognized by the DOJ.

Immigration assistance service providers are people or businesses that charge fees for any kind of immigration-related services. They are sometimes known as notarios públicos in Spanish-speaking communities, immigration "brokers," immigration "consultants," or “accountants” providing immigration assistance. Many immigration assistance service providers are not lawyers nor accredited/recognized by the DOJ and cannot give you legal advice. To learn more about what immigration assistance service providers can and cannot do for you, click here.

Immigration law is complicated. Beware of fraudulent providers who may indicate otherwise and make false promises, such as:

  • An easy way to obtain a green card
  • A way to get a work permit or visa immediately
  • Statements indicating that there are no risks or consequences
  • Claims of special influence with immigration authorities 

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Do not pay for government application forms – forms are free and can be downloaded online at www.uscis.gov/forms
  • Do not give original documents – give copies instead
  • Do not sign any blank or incomplete forms 
  • Do not sign papers, immigration forms, or contracts that you do not fully understand

WHAT TO DO:

  • Always ask questions – even if the provider was recommended by a family member or friend; you should feel confident about the provider
  • Ask for proof that the provider is a licensed attorney or accredited/recognized by the DOJ
  • Get a second opinion
  • Only go to providers that have a physical location
  • Ask for a written agreement that describes the services to be provided and is signed by the provider – read the agreement before signing it, and keep the signed copy for your records
  • Get copies of documents prepared for you
  • Ask for a written receipt that includes the name and address of the provider

Filing a Complaint

To file a complaint about immigration assistance service providers, call 311 and say “immigration service provider” or visit the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection website at nyc.gov/dca to file a complaint in your language. You do not have to give your name or immigration status to make a complaint.

To file a complaint about an attorney, call 311 or visit the court website for the location where you met the attorney:
Bronx
Brooklyn
Manhattan
Queens
Staten Island

Connecting with Immigration Legal Help

Trustworthy, qualified immigration attorneys are available to assist you with immigration matters. For example, ActionNYC offers free legal screening for all immigrants in New York City. This free screening can connect you to a qualified immigration lawyer and can help you avoid becoming the victim of immigration fraud.

To schedule an ActionNYC legal secreening, call 1-800-354-0365, or call 311 and say "ActionNYC" or “immigration legal services.”
If you’re feeling anxious, stressed or depressed – help is available.

It’s normal to feel anxiety and stress. ThriveNYC will give you access to mental health supports in your language. Call 1-888-NYC-WELL, text “WELL” to 65173, or go online to NYC.gov/NYCWell.

Common Scams

“10-Year Visa” Scam

In the “10-Year Visa” scam, unscrupulous attorneys and immigration assistance service providers tell immigrants that they can obtain a visa or green card if they have lived in the United States for 10 years. These scammers typically fail to adequately explain that to pursue this, individuals must enter deportation proceedings and prove "extreme, unusual, and exceptional hardship" to a qualifying family member.

Phone Scam Targeting Chinese Speakers  

Scammers are calling and leaving voicemails in Mandarin from numbers appearing to originate from mainland China and claiming to be from the Chinese Embassy, Chinese Consulates, or Chinese law enforcement agencies. These callers request that you pick up a package or, alternatively, provide personal financial information, such as bank account or credit card information, to avoid issues with your legal status, or to avoid arrest the next time you travel to China. Scammers are reportedly targeting Chinese immigrants or people with Chinese last names. 

The incoming phone number for these scams is often similar to the recipient's own number or to the Chinese Embassy's real number, (212) 244-XXXX. The scammers are also using email and WeChat in their attempts to defraud people.

If you think you’ve been scammed, you can call 311 and ask to connect with your local police precinct to file a police report. The NYPD does not ask about the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or other people who ask for help. Services are available in Chinese and other languages.

Learn more about this phone scam:
Avoiding the Latest Scam Targeting Chinese Americans Handout [PDF – English]
避免针对美籍华人的新型电话诈骗 [PDF - Chinese]
Evitar las Últimas Estafas Telefónicas Dirigidas a los Chinos Americanos [PDF – Spanish]

Additional Resources:

Download and print our “Don't Be A Victim of Immigration Fraud” one pager below. All documents are in PDF format.

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