As a practicing Miami immigration lawyer, I am consistently amazed at how many of my clients come to my office with their immigration cases in disaster mode, because they were unfortunate victims of immigration scams. The repercussions on a person’s life from a botched immigration application can be very severe. I cannot stress this enough – if you need legal advice on immigration matters, make sure that the person you rely on is authorized to give you legal advice. Only an attorney or an accredited representative working for a Board of Immigration Appeals-recognized organization can give you legal advice. 

Buyer Beware

The Internet, newspapers, radio, community bulletin boards and storefronts are filled with advertisements offering immigration help. Again, not all of this information is from attorneys and accredited representatives. “Notarios” and other unauthorized representatives are not qualified to provide legal advice. In fact, I have seen first hand the devastating repercussions on relying on the wrong kind of help can hurt. A repeated scenario involves me being the first to inform the client that they have an outstanding deportation order they knew nothing about. Below are some warning signs to watch for.

“Notario Publico”

In many Latin American countries, the term “notario publico” (for “notary public”) refers to attorneys with special legal credentials. In the U.S., however, notary publics are people that are only qualified to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. “Notarios” in the United States are not attorneys. They cannot give legal advice, and cannot provide you with legal services related to your immigration case.

Local Businesses

Some businesses in your community “guarantee” they can get you benefits such as a:

  • Visa
  • Green Card
  • Employment Authorization Document

These businesses sometimes charge you a higher fee to file the application than USCIS charges. They claim they can do this faster than if you and/or your Miami immigration lawyer applied directly with USCIS. These claims are false. There are few exceptions to the normal USCIS processing times.

Visa Lottery

Once a year, the Department of State (DOS) makes 50,000 diversity visas (DVs) available via random selection to persons meeting strict eligibility requirements and who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. During this time, it is common for immigration scammers to advertise in emails or websites that reference either the:

  • DV lottery
  • Visa lottery
  • Green Card lottery

These emails and websites often claim that they can make it easier to enter the annual Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, for a fee. Some even identify you as a DV lottery “winner.”

These emails and websites are. DOS does not send emails to applicants.

The INS No Longer Exists

To this day, some local businesses, websites and individuals make reference to the “Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).” This agency no longer exists!

The INS was dismantled on March 1, 2003, and replaced with  the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the entity that grants immigration benefits. The other two components are U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

All official correspondence regarding your immigration case will come from USCIS.

Check for Proper Legal Credentials

Legal advice can only be dispensed by attorneys. Before retaining an attorney, you should check to see if he/she is currently licensed to practice law in his/her respective state. You can do so by visiting the appropriate state bar website. For example, to look up an attorney’s credentials in the state of Florida, you can visit the Florida Bar website at: . Pay attention to whether the attorney is in “good standing” with the Florida bar, and whether there are any blemishes on his/her 10 year discipline record.

If you and/or your loved has been the victim of an immigration scam, please contact Miami immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at www. 

Coronavirus update: We are safely open for business! USCIS is still accepting new filings for all applications. Our office is offering virtual consultations for new clients so that you don't have to come to our office in person. Call us to schedule your virtual meeting today.
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