Have you ever encountered an “immigration services” company or a “notario publico”? These companies and individuals claim that they can provide expert immigration advice and services, but in reality they are a scam. At best they are simply acting as the middleman between you and the embassy or USCIS without adding any value, and at worst they are scamming you out of your money, putting your application at risk, and making you vulnerable to a denial or even being banned from the US.
These “immigration services” companies and notarios are not qualified to handle your immigration applications; they are non-lawyers who are engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, a crime in the US. It is illegal for any person to give legal advice unless they are a licensed attorney. Not only is this a serious offense, but it also means you are taking advice from someone who is not monitored by any state bar association. When working with “immigration services” companies and notarios, you are at risk of being given bad legal advice, and will have no recourse if these individuals rip you off or ruin your application.
These types of companies do all they can to appear to be law firms, and often offer services such as assistance with completing forms and applying for visas and green cards. Some of them even claim to be “USCIS-approved,” which is absolutely false. USCIS does not approve specific immigration services companies, lawyers, or translating services. If you hear this claim, run the other way. Many of these companies do not even review your application; they simply copy and paste your information into the immigration application, offering you nothing of value for the fees they charge. Other “immigration service” companies will only enter into a “limited scope” representation agreement with you. This means that their services end after the forms are filed; they do not remain on your case until the decision is made like immigration attorneys do. If USCIS, the National Visa Center, or the US embassy ask you for more information or deny your application, these companies will leave you stranded with no help in saving your case. This is simply not a risk worth taking when an immigration case can determine the course of the rest of your life.
The only way you can be sure that you are hiring a legitimate immigration attorney is to search their name with the state bar association where they are licensed. Be sure to do this before signing a contract with any immigration attorney. For example, I am licensed in Washington, DC, so all of my clients can go to the DC Bar Association attorney search page here and type in my name to see that I hold a law license that qualifies me to handle their legal issues.
How Do They Get Away With It?
“Immigration services” companies are typically not based in the US, which means it is difficult to prosecute them under US law. However, a licensed US immigration attorney must adhere to US laws and ethics rules, or they risk losing their license. This means an attorney is legally and ethically obligated to offer top-quality legal services to each client they take on. But since “immigration services” companies do not have a license at stake, there is no consequence for them if they give you poor advice or take your money without reviewing your application.
While a “notario publico” may be able to offer legal assistance to clients in many Latin American countries, there is no such position in the US. Notarios are not authorized to practice immigration law and cannot legally assist you in any immigration matter, even if it is as simple as completing a form. They take advantage of this commonly used professional title in Latin America to scam unsuspecting immigrants into hiring them, claiming they can help with immigration issues. While many notarios are prosecuted for their crimes, many evade authorities and run their scam for years.
Is It That Big of a Deal?
Clients have come to me with immigration issues caused by the shoddy work of immigration services companies and notarios, and I have heard countless similar stories from other immigration lawyers. These mistakes have resulted in the denial of immigration applications and even immigrants being banned from the US for 10 years or more. Some notarios even charge clients thousands of dollars for a frivolous application that they know will be rejected.
You Deserve Better
You deserve more than this. The immigration system in the US is complex enough without needing to navigate through a pool of scammers claiming to be able to make things easier for you.
This is why I strive to provide unparalleled customer service to my clients and why I was motivated to create the US Visa Center. The US Visa Center website allows you to quickly apply for a tourist visa right on our site. Within 48 hours of your submission, I personally review your application and address any potential mistakes or weaknesses. I then set up a phone call with you to provide personalized interview preparation. US Visa Center provides the convenience and price of an “immigration services” company, while offering you the quality and legitimacy of an immigration attorney.
Disclaimer: This post is attorney advertising. It is meant as general information only, and is not legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. We suggest you set up a consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results do not guarantee future outcomes; every case is unique and must be analyzed individually.