Those practicing law without a license in United States Immigration matters can cause great hardship to those whom they claim to “represent.” This hardship is often most acutely felt by the immigrant communities that are most negatively affected by unauthorized individuals claiming to be qualified or licensed to represent foreign nationals and their American citizen family members in US immigration and visa proceedings.
In the Kingdom of Thailand, many individuals (both Thai and American) are under the mistaken belief that any “visa agency,” “visa company,” or “immigration adviser,” is authorized to assist in preparing visa petitions and applications submitted to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This is simply not true. The United States Department of Homeland Security, which has authority over the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), has definite rules regarding who is entitled represent clients in American immigration proceedings. Under current regulations, only an individual who is licensed to practice law before the highest Court in one of the 50 United States or US Territories and eligible to practice law in all American jurisdictions will be authorized to advise and represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as well as the agencies that are under DHS’s jurisdiction (example: USCIS).
Recently, USCIS explored the issues surrounding the unauthorized practice of United States Immigration law. In a recent release distributed by USCIS the following information was reported:
“Many unauthorized practitioners promise to expedite cases, and then take an applicant’s money and disappear – applicants are willing to pay more to an unauthorized practitioner than they would to a private attorney because they may believe that [they] can provide premium services…”* The notion that a “visa agency” has a “special relationship” with government officials is relatively common in Southeastern Asia and completely untrue. Anyone claiming to have a “special relationship,” or “special influence,” with American Immigration authorities in either the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State is simply not telling the truth and should probably be avoided as no one should have a “special relationship” with government personnel and if they did it would likely constitute a crime. American officials in both the Department of Homeland Security and the US State Department adjudicate cases impartially based upon the unique set of facts and evidence presented in each case.
This author applauds the efforts of USCIS in studying the problem of unauthorized practitioners. One can hope that these assessments will lead to action on the part of American officials in pursuit of those who prey upon the immigrant and prospective immigrant communities both in the United States of America and abroad.
For those looking for advice regarding an American immigration matter it may be wise to ask a possible representative for information regarding his or her Bar Association Membership Card, License to Practice Law, or a License Number and State of Licensure. This information can be used to cross reference the attorney’s credentials in order to ensure that one is retaining an authorized representative who is licensed and in good standing.