The city's Department of Consumer Affairs is warning immigrants that scammers are trying to exploit their attempts to get legal status by falsely telling them they can get a visa after living in the United States for 10 years.
The DCA sent out a warning to look out for the scam, known as the 10-Year Visa Scam, in which unscrupulous immigration service providers and attorneys advertise an "easy" opportunity for immigrants to obtain legal status. Despite being advertised as a simple fix, the DCA warns that getting a green card based on residency requires someone to both enter deportation proceedings and prove their family would undergo "extreme, unusual, and exceptional hardship" if the person was deported.
According to DCA, at least one immigrant spent $25,000 in pursuit of this "easy" visa, paying tremendous amounts of money for a false path to legal status that puts them in jeopardy.
"Some immigration service providers and immigration lawyers are preying on the desperation and fear of immigrants, all so they can turn a profit,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We want to make sure that all consumers know the hidden risks involved in this 10-Year Visa Scam, which requires immigrants to actually enter into deportation proceedings without the guarantee that their visa application will even be approved. DCA encourages New Yorkers, regardless of their immigration status, to utilize the City’s free and secure services to ensure they are keeping themselves and their families safe."
According to Alabama immigration attorney Jeremy Love, the scam is based on an actual avenue of avoiding deportation known as Cancellation of Removal. While a Cancellation of Removal Request is available to someone in front of an immigration court who's lived in the United States for 10 years, it's not an automatic way for an undocumented immigrant to get a green card. In addition to having to prove the hardship to a family member (who must be a U.S. citizen), an immigrant would have to prove "he/she is a person of good moral character without a serious criminal or immigration history."
Love provides the following example:
A good example of a case that was recently approved, involved a man who has been in the US for 15 years, with no criminal or immigration history, and whose US citizen wife suffered from a serious illness and needed his assistance in the US to obtain her medical treatment.
And as Love points out, if a Cancellation of Removal is filed when an immigrant isn't even in front of an immigration court, it could actually jumpstart deportation proceedings against them.
In October of 2016, police arrested a Bronx man who allegedly scammed undocumented immigrants for almost a decade, operating out of a storefront in Westchester Square, where he charged them for false help in obtaining legal citizenship.