The wrong help can hurt - US Embassy warns of visa and overseas job scams
Counselor for public affairs at the United States Embassy, Joshua Polacheck, has issued a warning to Jamaicans about unauthorised persons offering to assist with visa application and job placement in the United States.
"It is really important that Jamaicans understand that people who are offering to assist with immigration or short-term jobs in many cases are not authorised to do so and the only service that they are often providing for the money that they are requiring is filling out a form that the applicant could fill out themselves," he said in an interview with The Gleaner.
Polacheck emphasised that the visa application process is not as difficult as some make it out to be, and noted that Jamaicans need not pay exorbitant sums for others to complete the application for them.
The Department of Homeland Security in the United States in 2011 launched the Unauthorised Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL) Initiative, a national, multiagency campaign that highlights immigration-services scams and the problems that can arise for immigrants when legal advice or representation is given by people who are not attorneys or accredited representatives.
Noted immigration lawyer, John Bassie explained to The Gleaner that while immigration services are not the sole remit of immigration lawyers, the public is strongly advised to avoid entities and individuals who are offering immigration services without the legal expertise to do so.
The latest available data from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) shows a general decline in the number of prosecutions of immigration-related offences inclusive of visa and employment frauds. In October last year the DOJ prosecuted 5603 such cases.
According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents ranks as the third-highest lead charge recorded in the prosecution of immigration matters.
Professor of law and immigration lawyer, David Rowe has noted that,"misrepresentation of facts when deliberately made, can lead to criminal liability for both the US employer and/or their foreign affiliate or co-sponsor. It is highly recommended that the director of public prosecutions in Jamaica, develop a unit which can investigate use of advertising to defraud US non-citizens."
Polacheck also disclosed that the embassy has been on an aggressive campaign to dissuade Jamaicans from responding to advertisements about the visa lottery.
Once a year, the Department of State makes 50,000 diversity visas available via random selection to persons meeting strict eligibility requirements and who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. During this time, it is common for immigration scammers to advertise in emails or websites that reference the lottery. Polachek has, however, pointed out that Jamaica is not eligible to take part in the lottery and as such any offer made to Jamaicans in respect of the lottery is fraudulent.