Mon | Apr 24, 2017

Immigration Corner: Haunted by fraud

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2015 | 8:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

In 2001, I went to the United States (US) on a visitor's visa to visit my cousin. My cousin owned a car dealership and garage. I had a business in Jamaica. I bought cars, restored and sold them for a profit. I wanted to get familiar with diagnostic tools and learn some things that I thought would help me to improve my business in Jamaica. Since this required me being physically in the garage, my cousin's wife said that they could have problems with immigration if I was found in the garage without proper papers.

My cousin's brother proposed that he could get papers for me. I allowed him to get a Green Card with my picture on it, my name date of birth and a social security number. I actually worked in the garage for a few months, received a cheque every two weeks and paid taxes, etc. I left the US and the forged documents behind. I visited the US twice since, on my 10-year visa, for vacation. My last trip was nine years ago. And my visa expired about five years ago. I was young at the time and never realised there could be consequences. My grandmother, who raised me, died three years ago and I am now free to travel and do things I could not do before, because of my duty to my grandmother. I would like to apply for a visitor's visa, but I am not sure if that's a wise idea. I am wondering what penalties could arise from my folly, from 2001, and if I could still get a visitor's visa.

- SW

Dear SW,

You made a tremendous, life-altering mistake by allowing someone to produce an illegal Green Card and social-security card in your name. You committed immigration fraud. You indicated that you paid taxes and worked for several months with the fake documents.

Apart from what you did being illegal, you do not know where the documents came from. They could have been someone's stolen identity (alien number and social-security number) that was assigned to you and may have gone on to be assigned to other people over the years. The numbers could also have been made up to look authentic. You also don't know how the taxes you paid were reported by your cousin.

A B1/B2 visa, the most common type of visitor's visa for temporary travel, allows a person to visit for business or pleasure. You could have observed your cousin's garage and he could have taught you the skills the desired for your Jamaican business, without paying you wages. What you actually did was work, illegally, in the US in addition to committing immigration fraud.

Your actions made you permanently inadmissible to the US - even if you were the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition. The only way to overcome the inadmissibility is to be granted either a non-immigrant or immigrant visa waiver.

• Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States, and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida, and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Justice. info@walkerhuntington.com