IN this issue’s column, we will address practical tips to help protect yourself from becoming a victim of a fraudulent immigration services provider. In looking for a lawyer or a lawful immigration consultant to help you with any immigration issues, it is good practice to check with community groups you trust and to ask if the immigration consultant or lawyer is trustworthy. 

If you are working with an attorney, you should ask for the attorney’s State Bar number. You can use the number to check on the State Bar website or call at 800-843-9053 to learn if their license is active and whether they have any disciplinary history. On the other hand, if you are working with a non-lawyer immigration consultant, you can check online at https://specialfilings.sos.ca.gov/icbs to see if they have registered with the state. If you can’t find the consultant’s registration, it may mean that they are operating unlawfully.

If you decide to hire an immigration consultant, it is important to take precautionary steps to protect yourself from immigration fraud. Upon discussing the services that will be provided, you should always review, understand, and obtain a copy of any contract in writing before you sign. If payments are necessary, always ask for signed receipts with the agency’s or provider’s name and address on it. 

In addition, as much as possible, keep a paper trail and be wary of anyone who insists on cash payments. If you don’t have a bank account, an alternative way is to use cashier’s check as a form of payment. Also, if someone charges extra fees indicating that they know someone at USCIS who can quickly process your documents or charges fees for blank U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) forms, you should not proceed with that person and instead find other help. 

Moreover, only provide copies of original documents such as contracts, birth certificates, passport, statement, financial records, or any other documents. Most importantly, never sign any forms, application or papers that are blank or contains any false statement or inaccurate information. The information provided on all of your forms, applications and/or documents must be truthful, and accurate. 

Lastly, do not sign anything you do not understand. If you cannot read or understand English, ask someone to translate documents for you.

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is the nation’s largest legal and civil rights organization for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (NHPI). Founded in 1983 as the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Advancing Justice – LA serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations every year.  Through direct services, impact litigation, policy advocacy, leadership development, and capacity building, Advancing Justice – LA focuses on the most vulnerable members of Asian American and NHPI communities while also building a strong voice for civil rights and social justice. For more information, please visit https://www.advancingjustice-la.org/. 

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