Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘visa agents’

28th January 2011

Those who have read this web log with any frequency in the past may have noticed that the administration routinely posts information regarding attorney licensure and the practice of United States Immigration law. Recently, this blogger discovered some interesting information on this subject while researching the issue on the official website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). To quote some of that information directly:

If Then
You are filing within the United States Attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate with USCIS on your behalf and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition.
You are filing an application or petition at an office outside the United States Attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate with USCIS on your behalf and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition…

It should be reiterated that only a licensed American attorney has the unfettered privilege of practicing American immigration law before the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Although charitable organizations in the USA may be accredited to represent individuals before the USCIS and/or the US Immigration Courts, such representation is conducted on a not-for-profit basis. Licensed American attorneys are generally in a good position to provide advice and counsel regarding immigration matters due to education and experience. However, so-called “immigration consultants,” “visa agents,” and “visa companies” lack both the credentials and qualification to provide advice and representation of clients before USCIS, DHS, and/or the Department of State (DOS). To quote the USCIS website further:

Attorneys must be a member in good standing of the bar of a U.S. State (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. Attorneys will check the first block on Form G-28 and must provide information regarding their admission to practice.

Only attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate on your behalf regarding your application with USCIS.

In choosing an attorney, you should:

  • Ensure that the attorney is a member in good standing of the “bar” of a U.S. State (or possession, territory, Commonwealth or District of Columbia)
  • Ensure that the attorney is not under any court order restricting their practice of law
  • Review the current attorney licensing document for the attorney and contact the relevant State bar admission authorities to verify the information.  See the “American Bar Association – State Bar Associations” link to the right for a list of state bar associations.
  • Review the “List of Currently Disciplined Practitioners” in the link to the right. This is where the Executive Office for Immigration Review lists if an attorney has been expelled or suspended from practice before USCIS/DHS
  • Review the “List of Previously Disciplined Practitioners” available from the “List of Currently Disciplined Practitioners”  page on the EOIR website

A lawfully admitted attorney should honor your request for this information, as State Bar practice rules require disclosure of this information to clients. Before you pay attorney fees for help with your immigration case, make sure that the individual is a licensed attorney.

You should also review the lists of currently disciplined and previously disciplined practitioners on the Executive Office for Immigration Review website. These lists will help you to determine whether the attorney has been expelled or suspended from practice before USCIS/DHS.  To review these lists, please see the links in the “External Links” section of this page.

Those wishing to retain professional assistance during the United States Immigration process are well advised to take note of the citation quoted above as this information is very useful for those seeking attorney assistance. That said, the forthcoming quote deals with the issue of fake lawyers, visa agents, notarios, and immigration consultants who have been known to imitate genuine American attorneys in an effort to further their own interests while simultaneously fleecing an unsuspecting public (both immigrants and American Citizens). To quote the USCIS website one further time:

Notarios, notary publics and immigration consultants may NOT represent you before USCIS.

Those wishing to bring their loved one from another country for family reunification in the USA should take note of the above quotation. In Thailand, for example, there are some fly-by-night operators claiming both expertise in immigration law as well as qualification, without actually possessing either. For this reason, it is always prudent to ask for the licensure information of those claiming the ability to represent individuals before USCIS, DHS, and DOS.

Licensed foreign lawyers may, under some circumstances, be able to provide some limited representation, but only upon authorization from USCIS, those interested should consult the USCIS website directly as this issue is not the intended topic of this posting.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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30th August 2010

In previous posts on this blog, this author has discussed so-called visa companies and other organizations that claim to be licensed to provide legal services to immigrants and prospective immigrants. In a previous post, the New York Attorney General’s campaign to combat fraudulent immigration practitioners was discussed at length. It would appear that Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is still intent upon seeing that this type of activity is thwarted. To quote directly from a press release distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

NEW YORK, NY (August 17, 2010) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the latest actions in his ongoing effort to combat scams that target New York’s immigrant communities. As part of his broad investigation into immigration fraud, Cuomo has shut down seven companies and sued two other organizations for providing fraudulent legal services to immigrants.

The following seven companies and their owners have been permanently barred from operating any immigration services businesses and must collectively pay $370,000 in damages to the State of New York: (1) Centro Santa Ana, Inc. and Ana Lucia Baquero, in Queens; (2) Margo’s Immigration Services and Margarita Davidov a/k/a Margo Davidov, in Queens; (3) Miguel Fittipaldi, J.D., Ltd. and Miguel Fittipaldi, in Manhattan; (4) Arthur C. Hurwitz, in Manhattan; (5) Oficina Legal Para
Hispanos, P.C. and Geoffrey S. Stewart, in Manhattan; (6) Asilos and Camilo Perdomo, in Queens; and (7) Mision Hispana, Inc. and Mayra Liz, in Queens.

The Attorney General began an investigation and issued subpoenas to these companies after receiving information that they were engaged in fraudulent and illegal business practices. The illegal conduct included, among other things, misrepresenting their authorization to submit documents on behalf of immigrants to the government and giving legal advice to immigrants. Further, some of these companies involved attorneys who aided others in the unauthorized practice of the law and simply lent their name to provide legitimacy to the business. Collectively, these companies abused hundreds of immigrants.

This author is pleased to see Attorney General Cuomo taking such a keen interest in an often overlooked problem plaguing the United States at large as well as immigrant communities in the USA. These immigrant groups are often targeted by unlicensed “visa agents” or “Immigration specialists” who prey upon uninformed consumers.

This can be a real problem outside of the United States as well. In Asia, there are many unlicensed practitioners who claim to be authorized to practice US law. When dealing with someone who claims to be US lawyer abroad it is always wise to ask for credentials in order to ascertain whether or not an individual really is qualified to provide legal advice on American immigration matters. An American attorney’s credentials can be proven by producing either a State of Federal license to practice law or a Bar Association membership card for a State or Federal Bar Association. Even after production of such documents consumers are well advised to check with the attorney’s licensing body in order to verify that the individual in question is a licensed practitioner.

For related information please see: US Attorney Bangkok

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28th January 2010

On this blog, we frequently take the time to point out the fact that only a US licensed attorney or other accredited representative can represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC), or the US Embassy in Bangkok. Recently, USCIS has promulgated a brochure for consumers regarding US Immigration and fraud perpetrated against unwitting immigrants. Unfortunately, there are those who claim to be US Immigration experts when they are in fact unlicensed to practice United States law. These people claim all sorts of titles in order to sound as though they have a right to practice American Immigration law. The fact of the matter is that there are only two types of representatives that USCIS or the Department of State recognizes as legally able to represent clients.

The first category of authorized representatives is Attorneys. To quote directly from the brochure, USCIS requires the following in order for an attorney to act as a representative for clients in an Immigration matter:

An attorney must be in good standing with a U.S. state bar association (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and may not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. The best way to protect yourself is to ask the attorney to show you their current attorney license document. Write down the information and contact the state bar admission office to verify the accuracy of the information.

In a further quote from this brochure, USCIS explains what an individual or organization needs in order to be recognized as an accredited representative in immigration matters:

An accredited representative must work for an organization that has permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to provide legal advice on immigration matters. The organization will have an order from the BIA that gives the accredited representative permission to assist individuals with their immigration applications and petitions. The best way to protect yourself is to ask the accredited representative to show you the BIA order. Write down the information and contact the BIA to verify the accuracy of the information.

There it is, from USCIS itself, there are only two ways to verify that one calling himself an attorney is actually certified or licensed to practice Immigration law. Those seeking Immigration advice would be wise to undertake the above measures in order to be certain that their representative is able to effectively represent their interests. So-called visa agents, Immigration Consultants, legal advisors, and/or anyone calling themselves a “lawyer” should be able to provide either a license to practice law in a US state or territory, a US bar membership card, or a letter of permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals, anyone who cannot produce one of these documents is not authorized under US law to practice in the area of United States Immigration. This brochure went on to note that only an American attorney or an accredited representative is entitled to submit a form G-28 to the USCIS service center. Anyone who prepares an application without including this G-28 document should be asked why they are not submitting it.

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