Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘visa consultants’

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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