US officials warn visa and citizenship applicants of immigration scams

by Ray Clancy on October 10, 2014

US officials are warning that while many people offer help with immigration services, unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so and visa applicants need to be aware of scammers.

‘While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration services scam,’ said a spokesman for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USICS).

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Going to the wrong place can delay your application, cost you unnecessary fees and possibly lead to removal proceedings

‘If you need help filing an application or petition with USCIS, be sure to seek assistance from the right place, and from people that are authorised to help. Going to the wrong place can delay your application, cost you unnecessary fees and possibly lead to removal proceedings,’ said a spokesman.

USCIS wants to combat immigration services scams by equipping applicants, legal service providers and community-based organizations with the knowledge and tools they need to detect and protect themselves from dishonest practices.

To accomplish this goal, USCIS has launched the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL), Initiative which means it has partnered with several government agencies to identify resources that can help people avoid immigration services scams.

It advises people to use online educational resources, which include finding out about the top things to know before and after filing an application or petition and familiarisation with the most common immigration services scams.

Meanwhile, USCIS has awarded nearly $10 million in grants today to 40 organisations that will help permanent residents prepare and apply for US citizenship. Located in 24 states and the District of Columbia, these organisations will receive federal funding to support citizenship preparation services for permanent residents until September 2016.

Since it began in 2009, the USCIS Citizenship and Integration Grant Programme has awarded a total of $43 million through 222 competitive grants to public or private non-profit organisations.

Now in its sixth year, the program has helped more than 93,000 permanent residents prepare for citizenship. USCIS anticipates that an additional 32,000 permanent residents will receive citizenship preparation services by the end of September 2016 as a result of the grant programme.

‘Our Citizenship and Integration Grant Programme is an integral part of our agency’s mission of supporting immigrant integration and participation in American civic culture,’ said USCIS director León Rodríguez.

‘Grant recipient organisations, located throughout the country, are a crucial network of supporters that help tens of thousands of permanent residents access high quality services and gain access to valuable citizenship information,’ he added.

He pointed out that the programme is a major part of USCIS’ efforts to support effective citizenship preparation services and provide information to immigrants and public or private non-profit organizations.

Other efforts include the Citizenship Resource Centre, a Web resource that provides learning materials to help permanent residents prepare for the naturalization process, and USCIS’ partnerships with federal and municipal agencies that raise awareness of the rights, responsibilities and importance of US citizenship among the estimated 8.8 million permanent residents nationwide who are eligible to apply for naturalization.

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