Green Card Scam

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 What Is a Green Card Scam?

A green card scam is an illegal business scheme designed to cheat an intended immigrant out of money. This is often done by making false claims regarding how they may be able to obtain a Permanent Resident Card (i.e., a green card). The scammer falsely promises that they can get the immigrant a green card and cheats them out of money.

Green card scams are not the same criminal offense as green card fraud. In a case involving green card fraud, the immigrant is making untrue claims in an attempt to get a green card. Green card scams are when an outside party steals money from an immigrant by claiming they can get them a green card.

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the government agency that oversees all immigration matters, there are several ways that persons will try to carry out a green card scam. Some examples of how green card scams are accomplished include the following:

  • Scam websites: Be cautious of websites claiming they are affiliated with the USCIS. If the URL link does not end in .gov, then the website is likely part of a scam to get immigrants to pay for a green card.
  • “Notarios Publicos”: “Notario publico,” which is Spanish for a “notary public”), does not mean the same thing in the U.S. as it does in Spanish-speaking countries. In the U.S., a notary public holds a license to witness the signing of important documents. However, a notario publico is a powerful attorney with special credentials in Spanish-speaking countries. Some scammers have the notary public credential but pass themselves off as a notario publico. Do not confuse the two. They may be part of a green card scam.
  • Job offers: Immigrants should be wary of companies offering work from overseas or via email. If you receive a suspicious email that says you should leave your home country to come to the U.S., just be aware that it might be a scam. This is especially true if the email asks you to send money to get the job offer or to get a visa so that you can come to the U.S. for the job.
  • “Jumping the line”: A business or website may hold themselves out as an immigration expert and claim they have special ties to the federal government. They may also claim that you can obtain a visa, green card, or work permit faster if you pay them a fee. It is important to remember that the USCIS offers no shortcuts to receiving a green card and does not provide a quicker way for anyone.
  • Payments by phone or email: The USCIS will never ask an immigrant to transfer money to them for immigration fees through mechanisms such as MoneyGram, PayPal, gift cards, or Western Union wire transfers. The USCIS also will not ask an immigrant to pay money over the phone or by email. Although some immigration fees can be paid online, they will only be accepted through your personal USCIS account.
  • TPS (Temporary Protected Status) re-registration scams: Never submit any additional documentation or forms until the USCIS updates the official TPS re-registration data for your country. You can find updates concerning TPS on the USCIS website. Some scammers will claim that you need to re-register your TPS status or provide supporting documentation and that they (the scammer) can do it for you for a fee.
  • Scams targeting students: If you are an international student applying to colleges in the United States, make sure that the school you are applying to is accredited. A college or university that is not accredited will not be able to sponsor you for an F-1 visa. Once you are accepted to a program, you will receive one of two forms:
    • Either a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for an academic and language student, or
    • The Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status for a vocational student
    • Scammers will send you a falsified I-20 form, making you think you have gotten a visa when you haven’t.

If you believe you have been a victim of one of the above or another type of green card scam, you should contact a local immigration attorney immediately. An attorney can advise you on the next steps you should take and can potentially help you recover remedies for any losses you have suffered due to a green card scam.

What Is the Most Common Green Card Scam?

As explained, there are many ways that a scammer will attempt to cheat an immigrant out of money by promising to get them a green card. However, there is one method that green card scammers tend to use more than the others, and that is a scam that involves the USCIS green card lottery system.

Green cards are so hard to come by because there are only a certain number given out each year. They are granted based on the immigrant’s connection to an American family member or a job here.

In addition, USCIS runs a lottery most years, when about 50,000 extra green cards are given to people from countries with a low rate of applying for green cards.

In general, those who engage in an INS green card lottery system scam will typically make some kind of deceitful claims, such as that:

  • They can raise the immigrant’s chances of winning the green card lottery;
  • They have special connections to the U.S. government
  • They need more money to process a winning application
  • They have certain expertise or credentials required to submit a lottery application, increasing the applicant’s chances of winning.

What Are the Consequences of Falling for a Green Card Lottery Scam?

Aside from having to pay for services that do not exist, a victim of a green card scam may be completely disqualified from participating in the green card lottery system. This can happen when a scam artist submits multiple applications to the green card lottery system for a single immigrant.

An immigrant can also be harmed if the scam leads to delays in processing their application. This is because green cards are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis. Submitting extra applications will delay the investigation and review process.

How Do I Protect Myself From a Green Card Lottery Scam?

The most effective way for an immigrant to protect themselves from a green card lottery scam is to stay educated about the process and know the requirements for the green card lottery system. Know that:

  • Submitting an application to the green card lottery system is entirely free. Don’t pay anyone any money to apply.
  • There are no methods to increase a person’s chances of winning the lottery since winners are randomly chosen.
  • Only one application may be submitted per person, so anyone who says they’ll submit multiple applications to increase your chances of winning is scamming you.
  • No special expertise is required to apply to the lottery system. An individual only needs to follow the instructions, which can be found on the U.S. State Department’s website. Don’t pay anyone money because they claim the process is complex, and you need them to apply on your behalf.

If you do not understand the requirements or need more information about the process, you should ask an immigration attorney for further advice. An immigration attorney can provide ample protection and ensure you are protected from green card scams.

Do I Need an Attorney if I am a Victim of a Green Card Scam?

If you believe you have been a victim of a green card scam, then you must speak to a green card attorney as soon as possible. An experienced immigration attorney will be able to advise you of your rights and can clear up any immigration confusion that the scammer has caused concerning your official immigration record.

An attorney can also help determine whether there are any potential remedies that you can pursue to recover for any financial losses you may have suffered.

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