Immigration Consultant Fraud

Immigration consultant fraud occurs when an individual without authority either as a licensed attorney or as a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited non-lawyer representative, offers to provide services related to procuring an immigration benefit for an individual, family, or business. These individuals call themselves “notarios,” “notario publicos,” “visa consultants,” “immigration consultants,” “licensiados,” and other terms in other languages.  They take advantage of undocumented aliens, U.S. business owners, legal permanent residents, and U.S. citizens.  They usually charge fees for their services, but are not authorized to give legal advice about immigration law.

An alarming number of immigrants in Virginia fall victim to unauthorized immigration consultants.  These unauthorized legal consultants typically charge exorbitant fees for services they never provide.  By the time a victim discovers that he or she has been defrauded by a notary, it is often too late to repair the damage.  As a result of this unauthorized assistance, the immigrant may even lose the opportunity to apply for immigration relief. 

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

Hire only a licensed attorney or a BIA-accredited representative to give you immigration advice or represent you before any immigration agency.  

An accredited representative is a non-lawyer authorized by the BIA to provide immigration services on behalf of a non-profit, religious, charitable, or social service organization.  A BIA-accredited representative’s credentials can be confirmed at the Department of Justice Recognition and Accreditation page.

A licensed attorney is authorized by a state bar to practice law, but must follow the state bar’s rules.  A licensed attorney should display his bar license.

Ask in your community for references to an accredited representative or licensed attorney who has a good reputation for helping people with immigration.  Also, take the following precautions:

  • Ask how much it will cost for a consultation.
  • Verify an attorney’s or accredited representative’s eligibility to represent you.  
  • Ask what the process is, how long it will take, and what the risks are.
  • Ask how you pay.  Is it a one-time flat fee?  Can you set up a payment plan? Does the attorney or accredited representative charge by the hour?
  • Require a written contract of representation and review it carefully.  The type of representation and payment terms should be clearly spelled out in a written contract.  Take time to read and understand the terms of the contract.  You should not feel rushed into the representation.
  • Get a receipt when you make a payment.
  • Receive copies of all documents prepared or submitted for you.
  • Report any representative’s unlawful activity to the Virginia State Bar at the contact information contained below.
  • Do not sign papers that are blank or that have not been filled out.
  • Do not sign documents that you do not understand.
  • Do not sign documents that contain false statements or inaccurate information.

How Do I Report Immigration Consultant Fraud?

To report unlawful activity that may be the unauthorized practice of law, contact the Virginia State Bar to request an Unauthorized Practice of Law complaint form:

Ethics Department
Virginia State Bar
707 East Main Street, Suite 1500
Richmond, Virginia 23219

DISCLAIMER: The above information is neither legal advice nor legal representation.  It is provided as a public service by the Virginia State Bar to inform consumers.  If you need legal advice, you should consult a licensed immigration attorney or a BIA accredited representative.



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