Consumer Protection Tips for Immigrants: Immigration Assistance Services

Consumer Protection Tips for Immigrants: Immigration Assistance Services:

Before you read on…

Get free help. The City of New York offers safe, free immigration legal screenings. Visit or call 311 and say ‘ActionNYC’. See Free HELP and OTHER RESOURCES.

If you work with an Immigration Assistance Service Provider, here are tips to help you.

Immigration Assistance Service Providers are people or businesses that charge fees for any kind of immigration-related services. They are not lawyers. They do not have permission from the government to give immigration advice.

These providers are allowed to:

*translate and notarize documents.

*help you gather documents (like a birth certification or school records).

*type up application forms (but not give advice on how to answer questions).

*arrange for photographs or medical tests.

*help you prepare for English language or civics tests.

These providers are not allowed to:

*select which immigration forms you should submit.

*give legal advice about documents to submit.

*explain your immigration options.

*discuss your case with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)


*know which applications forms you need to file when you go to a provider.

*only go to providers that have physical locations. Never use one you can reach only by phone or email.

*do not believe any provider that claims to have special influence with immigration authorities.

*Providers must sign a written contract with you before providing services. Read the contract before signing. Keep a copy for your records.

*do not give original documents (like a marriage certificate). Give copies instead.

*get a written receipt. Make sure the receipt contains the name and address of the provider.

*do not sign any blank or incomplete forms. Insist that the provider sign any form it prepares for you.

*Providers must maintain a bond for your protection. Write down the name and contact information of the bond company or bank. If you are harmed, you can go to court to recover money from the provider or its bond company.

*file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)  online at or contact 311 to file a complaint in your language. You do not have to give your name or your immigration status to make a complaint. Note: If you would like DCA to contact you, you must provide your name and address.

*call 311 or visit and search “Attorney Disciplinary/Grievance Committee” to file a complaint about an attorney.

Beware of ….

In New York State, a notary public or notario pulicio, is not an attorney. A notary public cannot give legal advice, draft legal papers or review documents for legality.

Never pay for blank government forms. Forms are available for free on the USCIS website Providers do not have give out free forms.

Free Help:

*ActionNYC provides safe, free immigration legal screenings in your community in you own language. Visit or call 311 and say “ActionNYC”.


*City agencies that provide direct social services must arrange for interpretation and translation in your first language.

*City agencies cannot ask about immigration status unless it is necessary to determine eligibility for a benefit or service.

*call the New York State Immigration Hotlines at 1-800-566-7636 or 1-212-419-3737 for information on free immigration advice or help.

Other resources:

*Read other Consumer Protection Tips for Immigrants: EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES, FINANCES AND TAX PREPARTION.

*Visit for information, including a sample immigration assistance service contract.

*Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA): Visit for information about legal and City Services.

*U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS): Visit or call 1-800-870-3676 for USCIS forms.

*New York Attorney General’s Office: Visit and search “Immigrant Fraud” for additional information and resources. Read “Don’t be a victim of Immigration Fraud”.

*Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Visit and search ‘immigrant scams’ for additional information and resources. Read:

-Scams against immigrants

-Spotting avoiding & reporting scams: a fraud handbook for recent refugees and immigrants.

*New York City Bar Association: Call 1-212-626-7373 for an attorney referral.

*Disclaimer: this information has been provided by a pamphlet from the NYC Office of the Mayor, Department of Consumer Affairs/Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Small Business Services. I have never used these services before so I have no opinion on the m yes or no that they are good or not. Please call the above number or check their website for further information.




About jwatrel

I am a free-lance writer and Blogger. I am the author of the book "Firehouse 101" ( 2005) part of trilogy of books centered in New York City. My next book "Love Triangles" is finished being edited and should be ready for release in the Fall. My latest book, "Dinner at Midnight", a thriller is on its last chapter. My long awaited book explains the loss of the 2004 Yankee game to Boston. I work as a Consultant, Adjunct College Professor, Volunteer Fireman and Ambulance member and Blogger. I have a blog site for caregivers called 'bergencountycaregiver', a step by step survival guide to all you wonderful folks taking care of your loved ones, a walking project to walk every block, both sides, of the island of Manhattan "MywalkinManhattan" and discuss what I see and find on the streets of New York and three sites to accompany it. One is an arts site called "Visiting a Museum", where I showcase small museums, historical sites and parks that are off the beaten track both in Manhattan and outside the city to cross reference with "MywalkinManhattan" blog site. Another is "DiningonaShoeStringNYC", featuring small restaurants I have found on my travels in this project, that offer wonderful meals for $10.00 and under. So be on the lookout for updates on all three sites and enjoy 'MywalkinManhattan'. The third is my latest site, "LittleShoponMainStreet", which showcases all the unique and independent shops that I have found on my travels throughout and around Manhattan. I have started two new blog sites for the fire department, one "EngineOneHasbrouck HeightsFireDepartmentnj" for the Hasbrouck Heights Fire Department to discuss what our Engine Company is doing and the other is "BergenCountyFireman'sHomeAssociation" for the Bergen County Fireman's Association, which fire fighters from Bergen County, NJ, go to the Fireman's Home in Boonton, NJ to bring entertainment and cheer to our fellow brother fire fighters quarterly.
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