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How people who are seeking U.S. citizenship can avoid scams

While the pathway to U.S. citizenship may be a lengthy and somewhat difficult process, it can become even more complicated for immigrants in Pennsylvania and throughout the country who fall prey to several common scams that claim to make the process easier and quicker. Such offers from the radio, websites and newspaper advertisements, for example, may appear tempting, but they are illegal and can actually do more harm than good.

Prospective American citizens should be skeptical of individuals, websites and businesses claiming to be connected with the Immigration and Naturalization Service. While appearing legitimate, this agency ceased to exist on March 1, 2003 and the entity that now deals with the immigration procedure is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Individuals should also be aware of fake website and email advertisements that solicit a fee to assist individuals in applying for the Department of State's annual Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or alerting them that they are winners of the DV lottery. The DOS does not communicate to applicants via email.

There are fraudulent websites selling USCIS forms and offering assistance with filling out the forms for a fee, while telephone scammers try to lure individuals to submit a payment to cover the cost of correcting an alleged immigration document error. Additionally, individuals should be aware of local businesses affirming they can quickly obtain a green card, visa and employment authorization documentation for a hefty fee. These individuals falsely represent the USCIS, including those who use the term notarios, and do not have the authority to provide U.S. legal immigration services.

In order for a person to become a U.S. citizen, he or she must go through a complex process involving paperwork, interviewing and testing. Many people who seek to become a U.S. citizen retain the services of an attorney who is experienced in immigration law and who can assist them through the process.

Source: USCIS, "Common Scams", October 27, 2014

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