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Common Immigration Scams To Avoid

Common Immigration Scams To Avoid

When seeking work in the United States it's important to be aware of scams that help obtaining a visa. It's important to know that there is never a fee to apply for a U.S. work visa or to obtain U.S. government application forms or instructions.

The wrong help can hurt. Use this information to avoid common immigration scams.

Form I-9 and E-Mail scams:

USCIS has learned that employers have received scam emails requesting Form I-9 information that appear to come from USCIS. Employers are not required to submit Forms I-9 to USCIS. Employers must have a Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for every person on their payroll who is required to complete Form I-9.

All of these forms must be retained for a certain period of time. Visit I-9 Central to learn more about retention, storage and inspections for Form I-9.

These scam emails come from a fraudulent email address: news@uscis.gov. This is not a USCIS email address. The body of the email may contain USCIS and Office of the Inspector General labels, your address and a fraudulent download button that links to a non-government web address (uscis-online.org). Do not respond to these emails or click the links in them.

If you believe that you received a scam email requesting Form I-9 information from USCIS, report it to the Federal Trade Commision. If you are not sure if it is a scam, forward the suspicious email to the USCIS webmaster - uscis.webmaster@uscis.dhs.gov. USCIS will review the emails received and share with law enforcement agencies as appropriate.

Payments by Phone or E-Mail:

USCIS will never ask you to transfer money to an individual. They do not accept Western Union, MoneyGram, PayPal, or gift cards as payment for immigration fees. In addition, they will never ask you to pay fees to a person on the phone or by email. You can pay some immigration fees online, but only if you pay through your USCIS online account and Pay.gov

Winning The Visa Lottery:

USCIS does not manage the Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program. This program is managed by the U.S. Department of State (State Department). The DV Program is also known as the visa lottery.

Visit the State Department's website to learn more about the program, the requirements to enter, and how they notify people. Remember that the DV Program is free and the State Department will never send you an email about being selected.

Scam Websites:

Some websites claim to be affiliated with USCIS and offer step-by-step guidance on completing a USCIS application or petition. Make sure your information is from uscis.gov or is affiliated with uscis.gov. Make sure the website address ends with .gov.

Please remember that the USCIS will never ask you to pay to download USCIS forms. Their forms are always free on their website. You can also get forms at your local USCIS office or by calling 800-870-3676 and order forms over the phone.

Job Offers:

Beware of companies offering a job from overseas or by email. If you receive a suspicious job offer by email before you leave your country to come to the U.S., it may be a scam, especially if you are asked to pay money to receive a job offer.

Even if a job offer is legitimate, you are not allowed to work in the United States unless you have a permanent resident card (Green Card), an Employment Authorization Document (work permit) or an employment-related visa which allows you to work for a particular employer. Read the our guide about Work Permit. 

If you are already in the United States on a student visa, talk with your foreign student advisor (designated school official) at your school before you take any job. If you are about to graduate and are applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT), read the instructions on the this guide.

Scams Targeting Students:

If you are an international student outside of the U.S. and want to come to the U.S. for education, make sure you are applying to an accredited college or university. Look for your school on the Council For Higher Education web page.

You must have a Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, to travel. After you are accepted into a Student and Exchange Visitor Program - certified school, a designated school official will either give you:

  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status –For Academic and Language Students, or
  • Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (M-1) Student Status –For Vocational Students

Schools that are not accredited cannot sponsor you for an F-1 Student Visa

Paying Money for Connections or Jumping the lines:

Sometimes businesses and websites pretend to be immigration experts or say they have special connections to the government. They might also “guarantee” that you can get a visa, green card, or work permit faster if you pay a fee. Remember, USCIS has no exceptions to the normal processing times and no one can obtain these services faster than the usual process. 

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