Immigrants Can Avoid Scams

When the subject of immigration is broached, it seems everyone has an opinion. Not everyone can agree on immigration policies for the country. However, one thing most people can agree on is that defrauding immigrants is wrong.

But just because such fraud is wrong does not mean it's nonexistent. In fact, immigrants continue to be attractive victims for scammers, as many crooks feel immigrants are too scared of potential deportation to complain to local authorities that they have been victimized. Such fears often do make immigrants the perfect victims for scam artists offering to help immigrants navigate their way through complex immigration laws that are confusing to those born outside the country. The following are some of the more common problems immigrants must be aware of to avoid being victimized.

* The notary public issue: In Spanish, the phrase "notary public" translates to "notario publico." This can make things difficult for Spanish-speaking immigrants in the United States. That's because in Mexico a "notario publico" carries much more legal weight than a "notary public" does in America. A "notario publico" has greater legal authorization in Mexico, but within the United States, a "notary public" is only authorized as a witness in the signing of legal documents. Notary publics in the U.S. are generally not authorized to deal with immigration matters. While most notary publics are honest, some might take advantage of immigrants, knowing full well their counterparts abroad carry more weight in legal matters.

* Exorbitant filing fees: Immigrants must also be aware of the filing fee scam. While there are filing fees for most any application, be careful the person doing the filing is authorized to do so. Many immigrants are charged high filing fees by people who claim to be legally authorized to file applications for work permits and Green Cards. However, if the person filing the paperwork is not qualified, the application is going to be denied. The person who promises to file the paperwork is often aware that they are unauthorized to file any such documents, and many times simply keeps the fees without filing any paperwork, eventually telling the immigrant their application has been denied.

* The immigrant consultant scam: Immigrant consultants may not all be unsavory characters, but many a person has been duped by individuals claiming they can help navigate the complex American legal system -- one that's especially complex and ever-changing for immigrants after 9/11. A dishonest immigrant consultant might charge fees to file applications for nonexistent programs or even for legitimate programs for which the client does not even qualify, including asylum and labor certification.

For more information, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site at www.uscis.gov or the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund at www.maldef.org.