Emigration is bureaucratic and confusing. Visa and immigration scams are ready to take advantage of you.
Sleazy criminals use numerous strategies to separate potential immigrants from their money. Welcome to the murky world of visa and immigration scams.
Millions of people every year emigrate from the countries of their birth to build new lives in new lands. Motivations vary among individuals, but in most cases people emigrate from one country to another to improve their economic, professional or educational prospects.
The challenge is that popular destination countries rarely have open door policies. If you want to work, study or live in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and many other desirable destinations, you need a special visa enabling you to do so.
If you’re not careful, your Google search for the immigration or visa services of your destination country may pull up some deceptively legitimate-looking websites. In all likelihood, however, affiliated with the government of the country to which you seek to immigrate. In the best case, they’ll simply provide the exact same forms that a government site does. And charge you two or three times more than necessary to forward them to the appropriate address. It’s literally no service at all, just a sucker’s toll.
In the U.S., one of the more popular visa and immigration scams involves impersonating Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The impersonators contact their potential victims by phone and threaten them with immediate expulsion or imprisonment if they do not immediately pay exorbitant ‘fines.’ Scammers have even spoofed real ICE and police telephone numbers in order to make their calls seem legitimate. Needless to say, the funds victims transfer go directly to the scammers. No U.S. government agency contacts anyone by phone to threaten or demand money.
But visa and immigration scams can get worse. In addition to stealing your money they may use the information you provide them to steal your identity as well. That can potentially result in massive financial losses, as well as ongoing or even permanent damage to your credit score. Not to mention your eligibility to receive a real visa legitimately.
Phony Consultants and Agents
These scammers might pose as lawyers, authorised immigration consultants or some other official with an impressive and intimidating title. To tempt you, they may guarantee your acceptance into the country of your choice – for a price. The truth, however, is that no one, no matter who they are, can guarantee any such thing. If they do, they’re running visa and immigration scams. Guaranteed.
One particularly pernicious scam is disseminated by email and in print and is aimed at potential immigrants applying for a U.S. State Department. Diversity Visa (DV). The fake communication falsely notifies applicants that they have been awarded visas and requests payment. But in reality the State Department only confirms the granting of these visas online.
Another possible scam, if not just a source of confusion, is the use of the word notario (‘notary’ in Spanish). In certain Latin American countries, notario can be understood as a synonym for a lawyer. While many lawyers in the United States are notaries public, the two, of course, are not synonyms. Visa and immigration scammers are known to impersonate lawyers by advertising themselves as notarios.
Employment Visa Scams
Many countries, the United States among them, offer special work visas for qualified applicants. In the U.S, this is an H-1B visa. These visas, however, are granted upon endorsement from an employer seeking a hard-to-find highly skilled employee. Knowing that, scammers often pose as an employer or a recruiting agency. Either way, they’ll tell you that you’ll get a great job plus legal residency if, of course, you just pay them a processing or application fee. The amount of their fee, however, can reach thousands of dollars. But in truth, there is no job. Nor is there a visa. Worse yet, falling for this trick can potentially result in being blacklisted from getting a real visa for years.
This scam type of visa and immigration scam has been reported in Canada as well. A fake company using as its address an empty lot in Montreal lured potential immigrants by claiming to guarantee employment and visas in exchange for an advance fee.
Investor Visa Fraud
Numerous countries operate immigrant investor programmes. These are designed to stimulate their economies by allowing foreigners to legally immigrate in exchange for a large investment. In the U.S. this requires an EB-5 visa, and typically an investment of between $500,000 and $1 million in a project that will employ at least 10 Americans.
A notorious case involved the August 2019 arrest of a California businessman. Thomas Henderson and several co-conspirators allegedly defrauded numerous foreigners out of more than $100 million. Henderson apparently convinced his victims to invest their money with him in exchange for EB-5 visas. But no jobs were created. Henderson is accused of pocketing the money instead. The victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. And they faced deportation. Many similar cases have been reported over the years.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a visa or immigration scam, contact the fund recovery experts at MyChargeBack.