Warning about Paying for Immigration Assistance
If you need legal service beyond the free assistance provided by CUNY Citizenship Now, you can find an experienced immigration attorney by calling the New York City Bar Association Legal Referral Panel at 212-626-7373 or visiting the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website at www.ailalawyer.com.
If you cannot afford to pay a private attorney, you can get help from an agency recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) , the federal administrative appellate court for immigration law in the United States. BIA recognized agencies provide free or low-cost immigration legal services. For a list of these immigration legal service providers, visit www.justice.gov/eoir/ra/raroster_orgs_reps.htm or call “311” (if inside New York City) to request an authorized immigration legal services provider in your area. You can call “311” seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Assistance is available in over 170 languages.
By law, the only people who may give you legal advice or represent you before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are attorneys or non-attorney accredited representatives working with BIA recognized agencies. Some individuals provide immigration legal advice or services in violation of the law and some charge you for these services. Legal advice may include advising you on how to answer certain questions on your immigration forms or telling you what immigration options you may – or may not – have regarding your immigration status. These individuals often refer to themselves as immigration consultants or as “notarios.” They may file false or inaccurate applications with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf which may have severe consequences – you may end up in removal (deportation) proceedings.
To learn more about how to avoid being a victim of immigration service providers who practice law illegally, click here. If you or someone you know has been the victim of an immigration scam or has been victimized by an immigration legal service provider, there are several different resources available to assist immigrants.
You can report immigration scams confidentially to the NY County District Attorney’s Office, Immigrant Affairs Program at 212-335-3600 so they may take action against the unlawful service provider. The NY County District Attorney’s Office will also assist immigrants who have been victims of immigration scams or other crimes regardless of immigration status. You may also report immigration scams to the NY State Office of the Attorney General Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 to try and recover the money you paid for the advice. Information provided to the District Attorney’s and the Attorney General’s office is confidential and not reported to the federal government. You may also report a scam anonymously to the USCIS by calling 800-375-5283. To obtain more information from the USCIS on how to avoid scams, visit www.uscis.gov/avoidscams.