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Protect Yourself Against Common Immigration Scams

family-944773-mScam artists have always targeted immigrants but with the Obama Administration’s issuance of the new Executive Order scams could be on the rise. The immigration reform has caused much confusion among immigrant populations causing some families to dish out extra money to alleged immigration attorneys scamming them into believing their immigration status is at risk.

Immigration problems are very serious and can provide significant stress on immigrant families. Scam artists understand how stressful immigration problems can be and prey on the weaknesses of vulnerable immigrants. Scam artists are also aware that immigrants are not likely to report scams out of fear of being deported, making immigrants even more vulnerable.

One important point to note is that many businesses offering immigration services are not law firms and do not employ immigration attorneys. This confusion may lead people to believe they have hired an attorney when they haven’t. These business may employ immigration consultants who are not attorneys and cannot provide the same services as an attorney. Immigration consultants can provide some assistance with immigration issues but do not have the same power as an attorney. They are also referred to as “Notarios”.

TheOffice of the Attorney General’s website notes the difference between an immigration consultant and immigration attorney. Only attorneys that are licensed to practice law can give legal advice.

Immigration consultants mayoffer similar services of that of an immigration attorney but it is important to note that an immigration consultant can only provide non-legal help. Examples of the kind of help an immigration consultant may supply is translating forms or documents, submitting your forms to the INS, or advising you as to which forms you should file.

Often time scam artists will pose as an immigration attorney or consultant. The Office of Attorney General notes some common scams that con artists often employ to trick immigrants:

  1. Representing oneself as an attorney or immigration consultant when one is not qualified.
  2. Filing unnecessary applications.
  3. Charging for services that were never conducted.
  4. Keeping an applicants original documents and then charging a fee in order for the applicant to get the documents back.
  5. Charging a fee upfront for services and then charge additional fees in order to do more work for the applicant.

Attorney General Kamala Harris also provides a list of good practices for anyone using the immigration system in order to minimize the possibility of getting duped by unscrupulous immigration consultants. Some of her suggestions are:

  1. Do not accept legal advice from someone that is not a licensed attorney.
  2. Do not pay a fee to an immigration consultant in exchange for referring you to an attorney.
  3. Do not trust telephone scammers that pretend to be immigration officials. These scammers will often ask you for personal information or payment information over the phone.
  4. Beware and take caution against internet scams.
  5. Never sign any immigration forms that contain false information or are blank.

It’s important to ensure your immigration matters are handled by an attorney you trust. Sweta Khandelwal is a seasoned immigration lawyer licensed to practice law and has been working in the field for over 10 years. She has spoken at several different conferences in India and the United States on immigration issues. Contact The Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal today to discuss any issue or anxiety you have about the immigration process.

Cited Sources:

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Consumer Alert on Scams Targeting Immigrants and their Families, November 25, 2014, State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General.

Immigration Consultants, State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General copyright 2015.

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How President Obama’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Action” Affects Employment-Based Immigration

President Obama’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Action” proposes several changes to the immigration system many of which could affect employment-based visas. The proposed changes could be good news for employees and employers by decreasing wait times for certain classifications, allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work and in some cases increasing the amount of time a employee can remain on his visa.


The employment-based changes will affect green cards, H-4, L-1B, OPT and PERM classifications.

ecutive Action re Pre-Registration for Adjustment Cases
Main proposals:

  • Decrease wait time to file adjustment of status
  • Pre-register for green card and receive green card benefits while waiting for approval
  • Allow the temporary non-immigrant visa holder to change jobs while before green card is approved

The Executive Order’s proposals for readjustment cases will significantly benefit temporary non-immigrant visa holders. These visa holders will no longer suffer from long wait times before they eligible to even apply for a green card. Scrapping long wait times will allow immigrants to move through the once long and extensive process much faster. Green card holders are given more rights and benefits than temporary non-immigrant visa holders, and now workers can enjoy these benefits sooner.

Temporary non-immigrant visa holders will be able to change jobs while waiting for green card approval. If a worker receives a promotion or change in job title the lengthy green card process won’t have to start over again. This allows foreign workers to advance their careers faster and with greater ease. These changes will benefit the economy and increase the attractiveness of working in the United States.

H-4’s Ability to Work
Main proposal:

  • H-4 visa holders, spouses of H-1B visa holders can obtain work

Currently H-4 visa holders cannot work in the United States. This proposed change could greatly benefit families coming over the United States. Families may now have the ability to benefit from duel incomes, increasing their wealth and increasing the attractiveness of the H-1B visa. Allowing spouses to work may make the decision to travel to the United States easier on families now that spouses will not have to completely give up ability to work.

L-1BApprovals and Specialized Knowledge
Main proposal:

  • More specifically define “specialized knowledge” to decrease denials of L-1B visas

L-1B visas are granted to workers that possess an advanced knowledge specific to his employment. However, the term “specialized knowledge” is not well defined, which has led to several L-1B denials. The DHS has been consulting with the State Department for the past couple of years in an effort to update the definition of “specialized knowledge.”

Providing additional insight to the meaning of “specialized knowledge” will allow employers to more adequately find employees that fit under this visa classification. This can save employers considerable time and money filing L-1B visas that are subject to denial because the employee’s skill set doesn’t meet the definition of “specialized knowledge.”

Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Main proposal:

  • Students on OPT can extend stay for longer periods of time

OPT is a beneficial tool for students, specifically in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, to work in the field that they are studying. This allows students to gain practical experience and be more attractive to employers.

Extending the length of stay on OPT will allow employers to employ a student longer without students having to go back to his home country. This will allow students to gain more skills and become more marketable by gaining considerable practical experience working in the United States.

Main Proposal:

  • Full revamp
  • Modernize PERM system
  • Foreign entrepreneurs subject to “parole” system

Obama proposes the PERM system undertake a full revamping to modernize the PERM system and modernize outdated practices. This could make the PERM process easier and quicker to move through.

Foreign entrepreneurs that invest a certain amount of money in the United States will under a new “parole” system. This could benefit the United States economy by bringing in more money.

ContactThe Law Office of Sweta Khandelwaltoday to discuss how the Immigration Accountability Executive Action and how it could affect your employment-based

Cited Sources:

AILA’s Take on President Obama’s “Immigration Accountability Executive Action” Plan, American Immigration Lawyers Association, November 24, 2014

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H-1B Cap Opens April 1st

The H-1B cap for the 2015-2016 fiscal year will open on April 1, 2015. Timely filing is important because there are a limited number of H-1B visas issued each year. Application process is complex with no room for error. It’s time for employers to identify the candidates for whom they wish to file H-1B visa, and start the paperwork.

H-1B visas are popular among employers seeking to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations in the United States. A specialty occupation is a position that requires at least a Bachelor’s Degree. It follows that the H-1B visa applicants must possessa four-year bachelor’s degree in a field related to the position; or the applicants must have relevant and required experience to qualify.

The H-1B cap refers to the limit the USCIS puts on the number of new H-1B applications it will accept for approval each year. This year there will be 65,000 applications accepted for consideration for the regular cap and 20,000 for the H-1B Master’s cap. The Master’s cap is reserved for applicants with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. Of the 65,000 applications accepted for the regular cap, 6,800 petitions are set aside for H-1B1 classification that is reserved for Singaporean and Chilean residents, per terms of US-Singapore and US-Chile trade agreements.

The National Law Review predicts this year the cap will close within five days of its opening. After the cap closes the USCIS will not accept any more H-1B applications. If USCIS receives more than 65,000 applications before the cap closes there will be a lottery to determine which applications will be selected for H-1B consideration. The lottery is a random drawing among all applications received before the cap closes.

Last year the USCIS received over 172,000 H-1B applications the first week the cap was open. Based on this number, immigration practitionerspredict that this number could increase to 200,000 this year. Applications that are not selected in the lottery will not be considered for H-1B approval. All rejected petitions will not be able to apply again for H-1B status until the cap opens again the following year.

Filing an H-1B petition is a complex process. It is important to ensure your application is filed timely and correctly. Many additional documents, qualifications, and requirements must be met to ensure an applicant can be considered for an H-1B visa. Even the smallest error of checking the wrong box on the application formor a single typo in your application package can cause rejection without an opportunity to refile until the next year.

To ensure your application timely and correctly filed it is important to speak with an immigration attorney. The Law Office of Sweta Khandelwal can help guide you through this process and ensure that your H-1B application has the best chance of being entered into the lottery and approved. Attorney Sweta Khandelwal is an expert in the field of immigration law and can also discuss any other visa options that may be available to you. Contact our offices today to get started on filing your H-1B for the 2015-2016 cap!

Cited Sources:

Fiscal Year 2016 H-1B Cap- You’ve Been Warned, Now Here Are This Year’s Key Dates, The National Law Review, January 23, 2015

H-1B Fiscal Year (YR) 2015 Cap Season, USCIS, January 5, 2015

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