Despite all the different types of fraud you might face on your immigration journey, perhaps the most difficult challenge you face is choosing a lawyer, paralegal, or advisor who is truly qualified to help.
Here’s an important tip.
When you hire someone to prepare immigration papers, be sure to ask one simple question.
“Will you sign the papers as my preparer?”
It might be a simple question – but the answer is huge.
If the answer is, “No,” then you may not be working with a licensed lawyer, bonded paralegal, or certified immigration assistant.
Stop the process immediately until you’re sure you are hiring a competent immigration advisor.
At the very least, if you allow such an individual to prepare your papers, but you’re suspicious about his or her qualifications, have a licensed attorney review your papers before you submit them.
Just one error on your documents can destroy your chances of permanent residency – sometimes forever. That’s not a chance you should take.
In the late 80s, Judy hired an immigration services professional. She applied for benefits under the Ronald Reagan legalization plan. At first things seemed okay. She received a temporary resident card. But her case took an unexpected curve on the way to a green card. Her application for permanent resident benefits was denied.
A few months later, she saw on a local news channel that her immigration assistant’s office had been shut down by government agents. The report said that he was being investigated for fraudulently forging immigration documents.
Judy was scared. She did not apply for permanent residence benefits again until the mid 1990s. Her brother, now a U.S. citizen, filed the opening petition to immigrate her. Judy understood the process might take 15-20 years. It was better than nothing.
In 2002 her U.S. child turned 21. He wanted to immigrate her.
Judy went to a lawyer’s office this time. The lawyer told her that she had to wait until the government processed her brother’s papers. He said her son could not file a new petition for her.
The advice was flat out wrong.
Judy’s son could have filed for her green card status seven years before she came into my Hemet immigration law office.
The moral to the story. Be sure the person helping you understands immigration law.
In my opinion, immigration law is so complex only a specialist can keep up with all the changes.
Your attorney should be familiar with immigration law decisions throughout the entire United States.
If your case involves deportation defense, your attorney must know what 260 immigration judges, covering nearly 60 immigration court locations, need to see in your paperwork and evidence.
Your attorney has to understand how different government agencies interact in the field of immigration law. And how there might be different regulations, procedures, and rules from agency to agency.
How can you figure out if an attorney understands immigration law?
Nowadays, an attorney’s website is an important clue. Attorney websites provide insights on a lawyer’s areas of specialty.
If you have doubt someone is really an attorney, that’s a different question. But it’s easy to verify his or her qualifications by calling the state’s Bar Association.
If you decide instead to hire a non-lawyer immigration specialist, ask for references.
Check those references!
Check those references!
And check those references!
Only hire one who admits he or she is not a lawyer – and who encourages you to have their work reviewed by a licensed attorney.
It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Avoiding Immigration Fraud, Part 5, covering the problem with Unqualified Legal Advisors, is the fifth part of our five-part series on the most common immigration and green card scams perpetuated on unsuspecting mixed-status immigrant families. To read the full series, click here: If You’re Looking For Immigration Help: Beware Immigration Fraud.