Just last week, USCIS announced a major initiative to deal with immigration fraud. Aimed at combating immigration scams by people who are not authorized to dispense legal advice, USCIS in connection with ICE, DOJ, and FTC, has launched a new media blitz to educate and inform the public about who is allowed to prepare immigration forms and what types of scams are out there.
For years now, the legal community has been decrying the unauthorized practice of law by "notaries" and other individuals who are not licensed attorneys or accredited organizations. In our own state of New Jersey, the Office of the Attorney General and State Division of Consumer Affairs filed complaints against three companies who allegedly defrauded unwitting consumers by portraying themselves as immigration attorneys or organizations allowed to prepare forms. According to a news article, two of the companies are in Elizabeth, and one is in Newark.
Every week, I personally hear horror stories of people who have been victimized by unscrupulous people who either filled out the wrong applications or never even filed them after gouging the victim for thousands of dollars. It is about time that the government finally address this growing epidemic. People need to understand that only attorneys (and certain accredited representatives) are allowed to file immigration applications and give legal advice in connection with those applications. I understand that money is hard to come by, and sometimes it is tempting for people to pay less to somebody who tells them what they want to hear (ie., "you will get your green card in two months"); however, it is sad fact that many of those same people will invariably pay more once they learn that the wrong applications were filed, or the ones that had to be filed by a deadline were not filed.