Another green card scam: Fake approval notices

Several people have consulted with me, asking whether the approval letter they received was genuine.  While the notice has the opening sentence, “welcome to the United States of America,” which is how an adjustment of status approval notice typically starts, these approval notices are fake and people should be careful that they are also not scammed.

Apparently, there is an immigration consultancy group in Las Vegas, claiming to be associated with an entity that sounds like it is a law firm, but is actually a limited liability corporation handling management consultancy.  But still, it looks like the person is being represented by an immigration law firm.  In one case, a Filipino was charged over $22,500 for legal services, which included the promise of a green card.

After paying the money, the person received a notice from USCIS to be fingerprinted for work authorization.  They even went down to the USCIS and had their fingerprints taken.  This convinced the person that the filing must have been legitimate, as USCIS was already fingerprinting them for work permit.

However, this was merely part of the scam, to make the person feel that the filing by the consultancy firm was legitimate.  In reality, the consultancy firm apparently had filed an application for political asylum for the person, because the work authorization code on the fingerprint notice was “C08,” which is the code for work authorization when a person has a pending political asylum application.

After being fingerprinted for work authorization, the work authorization card itself never arrived.  Phone calls were never returned, and when they finally got in touch with the consultancy firm, they were given the run around and many excuses.

Ultimately, they received an “approval” notice for adjustment of status, even though they were not eligible for adjustment of status.  This notice had the familiar “welcome to the United States” greeting, but was so fake and bogus in so many other respects.

• The application or receipt number starts with the letters ZNY.  This is a code for an asylum office in New York.  It also shows a Service Center of “ESC,” which does not exist.  .

• Although this notice purports to grant permanent residency, it also reminds people they may “request to change employers” if their adjustment application had been pending for over 180 days.  This is a non-sensible reference to provisions of the American Competitiveness Act of the 21st Century (AC- 21) for employment based petitions, which would have no bearing on a case that has already been approved.

• Also, to be eligible for adjustment of status, there should have been some underlying petition or application that had been filed and approved, with a current priority date.  USCIS doesn’t simply “approve” green cards without any underlying basis.

The people who fell for this scam are out thousands of dollars.  More importantly, the scam artists seem to have filed for political asylum to get a fingerprint appointment, so as to fool the people into thinking something legitimate had actually been filed with USCIS.

But now, USCIS could move forward on the asylum claim, call the person in for interview, deny the asylum, put the person in deportation/removal, and they could be ordered removed.  In addition, the consultant may be having these notices sent to the consultant’s address, and they may not forward the asylum or deportation notices to the person.  Years later, the person may be shocked to find they had been ordered deported when either they apply for a legitimate immigration benefits or ICE knocks at their door.

If you have been a victim of this green card scam, you should seek the advice of a legitimate and reputable attorney, who might possibly be able to undo the damage of this bogus, fraudulent filing.

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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.


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