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The New York secretary of state is warning residents of a number of scams and fraudulent practices targeting immigrants.

The fraudulent acts – involving offers of non-existent visa processes and costly but unqualified legal services – often target new Americans with limited English proficiency, Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said in a press release last week.

Rosado, who oversees the Office for New Americans and the Division of Consumer Protection, warned against the following activities said scammers are offering services to obtain visas that don’t exist and to file meritless asylum applications.

“There is no such thing as a 10-year visa,” which is something being advertised by some lawyers, Rosado said.

“If a lawyer advertises a pathway to legal permanent residency under a ‘10-year visa,’ they are promoting a two-step process that generally involves a meritless asylum application, which would likely put the immigrant in deportation proceedings and a process known as ‘cancellation of removal,’” the secretary of state said.

“Cancellation of removal” may allow undocumented immigrants who are in removal proceedings to obtain a green card if they have continuously lived in the United States for a minimum of 10 years, have no criminal record, and have a green card-holder or U.S. citizen spouse, parent, or child who would suffer exceptional or extremely unusual hardship if the undocumented immigrant was deported from the United States.

The “cancellation of removal” process is highly risky and extremely difficult to win, Rosado warns.

Someone purporting to represent the individual in such a situation may not inform them that by simply appearing in a removal proceeding, the individual risks deportation if they lose. Immigration judges have the sole discretion to grant or deny “cancellation of removal,” whether or not an immigrant under removal proceedings meets the statutory requirements.

Rosado also warned against “notary public fraud.” In many Spanish-speaking countries, she said a notario público is an attorney. In New York, notaries public are licensed to certify identities and signatures. They are not necessarily attorneys. Notaries public who are not attorneys may not represent an individual before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in immigration court, or give legal advice. If a notary public offers to represent an individual in an immigration proceeding, it is an attempted scam, Rosado said.

The secretary of state urged consumers to be wary of immigration service providers who offer to help individuals get permits or other services quickly and for high fees.

“Immigration service providers may assist with clerical services, such as filling out immigration forms or translating documents,” Rosado said. “However, New York State law prohibits immigration service providers from giving legal advice, threatening to report an individual, promising special favors, or charging a referral fee for locating someone qualified to help or represent an individual.”

Rosado also warned against Immigration and Customs Enforcement Impersonators. There have been reported instances where fake ICE agents approach an individual and demand money to avoid deportation, Rosado said.

“Official ICE agents will never ask for money or threaten detainment or deportation if an individual does not pay them,” she said.

The secretary of state also urged people to verify any website that mentions being affiliated with USCIS.

“Fraudulent sites purporting to be official government service providers will often charge fees for forms that are available free of charge through official government websites,” Rosado said.

The easiest way to verify the site is to check if a web address has a .gov domain; only official government websites can use a .gov domain.

Some scams involve purported service providers demanding cash for services that are never provided.

“This scam is compounded by the fact that many immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants, often do not have access to bank accounts and pay cash without getting a receipt,” Rosado said.

“These horrific acts of fraud not only rob hardworking New Yorkers of their money; they demoralize immigrants from pursuing their American dreams and too often, squelch these dreams completely,” Rosado said.

The Office for New Americans operates a hotline Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can help new Americans in more than 200 hundred languages. The hotline number is 1-800-536-7636.

Hotline experts assist eligible immigrants in connecting with a team of experienced immigration lawyers through the Liberty Defense Project, which provides free immigration law consultations to newcomers, and technical legal assistance to immigrant service providers across New York State.

The Division of Consumer Protection consumer helpline (1-800-697-1220) offers safe, direct assistance for any New Yorker, irrespective of immigration status, who believes they have been treated unfairly while in the marketplace.

The Office for New Americans and the Division of Consumer Protection work with law enforcement entities to crack down on scammers who take advantage of New Yorkers seeking to adjust their immigration status by charging exorbitant fees or engaging in the unauthorized practice of law.

The Office for New Americans helps immigrants identify and collect documents needed to demonstrate eligibility for immigration status adjustment by partnering with the consulate generals of the nations’ representing the state’s immigrants.

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