Integrity Legal

25th Sep 2009

On this blog we often try to point out the difference between retaining the services of a licensed American Immigration lawyer and using a “fly by night” operator posing as a lawyer or calling himself an “Immigration Consultant.” In recent years, the United States government and various state governments have taken a firm stand by increasing their diligence in stamping out the activities of these scam artists. In a recent development a person in Virginia was arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for fraud based upon the fact that they stole 1 million US dollars while claiming to be a competent specialist in the field of immigration.

The scam artist in question, “was sentenced last week to 41 months in prison for defrauding vulnerable immigrant applicants of approximately $1 million from June 2000 through December 2005.”

The above linked article further noted what is seen by some as something of a new attitude in the Federal law enforcement community with regard to Immigration fraud:

“Immigration fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] uproots the infrastructure of illegal immigration by detecting and deterring immigration fraud.”

This situation further highlights the need to conduct due diligence in order to make certain that a person claiming to be an Immigration specialist is truly certified to handle United States Immigration cases. Many confused Americans often ask, “How can I ensure that my Thai fiancee and I are dealing with a reputable attorney who is licensed to practice American Immigration law?”

Even in cases where an individual claims that they are an attorney, it is always wise to ask to see a license to practice law from at least one US state or US territory. Seeing this document will provide evidence that the person one deals with is, in fact, a lawyer. Further, it might be beneficial to further inquire as to the “lawyer’s” educational background. Make certain that they not only graduated from an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school, but that they passed the bar in at least one state, territory, or district in the USA. Any licensed attorney should also be registered in their state’s Supreme Court database or with their state bar association.

An unfortunate fact regarding the hiring of an unlicensed “lawyer” or “consultant” is that those type of operators are not bound by any type of ethical code. Licensed attorneys must comport their behavior to an ethical standard and are therefore obligated to do no harm to their clients. This code of conduct is not imposed upon those with no license to practice law.

Unfortunately the internet has played a role in the proliferation of so-called “visa companies,” and unlicensed lawyers. With that in mind, the prospective applicants should insist upon seeing a license in order to ensure they are dealing with a reputable operator.

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