USCIS Working to Prevent Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law

It happens all too frequently: immigrants, already financially strapped, being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people posing as immigration lawyers, sometimes calling themselves “notaries,” or using other bogus legal jargon to make themselves sound legitimate. Cases abound in which unsuspecting immigrants have entrusted their green card applications, asylum petitions, and other important immigration paperwork to unlicensed charlatans who take their money and leave them without any of the immigration benefits they promised.

Fortunately, the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) is cracking down on the unlicensed practice of immigration law (UPIL), and recently announced plans to combat the practice through public outreach programs, support for prosecution of those engaged in UPIL, and capacity-building efforts to increase the availability of legitimate immigration assistance services. (See USCIS Initiative to Combat the Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law, USCIS Factsheet, 09.Dec.2010.)

The USCIS is working to better understand the problem of UPIL, and has begun to solicit input from government experts at the federal, state, and local levels, and from representatives of the communities affected by this problem. Six cities were selected for the first phase of the program, including New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, San Antonio, and Sacramento. After an initial round of listening sessions in these “pilot cities” during the first half of 2011, USCIS will scale up its effort to the national level.

We commend our friends at USCIS for taking steps to protect vulnerable immigrants from scam artists, charlatans, and other predatory practitioners who lack the legal qualifications they claim to have. There is no substitute for competent, experienced professional legal counsel, and we hope every immigrant will come to insist on it. There’s just too much at stake.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.