Regrettably, many immigrants have become the victim of employment agencies who offer legal services through recommended but dishonest attorneys. In many cases, employment agencies offer legal services such as an H-1B visa application, charging and billing the client for as much as $1,500 to $2,000 for “legal fees”. The client is then sent to an attorney used by the employment agency who in reality may receive as little as $600 to represent them for the Immigration Service.
The result is that clients are defrauded in an amount ranging from $900 to $1,400 and these same clients now depend on the good counsel and honest advice of an attorney who has participated in fraud against them. This practice of having non-attorney agencies share fees and refer clients to an attorney is against the law and can carry felony charges against the perpetrators. This is called “capping”.
In the eyes of the law, an employment agency who feeds clients to an attorney and obtains kick-back or monetary benefit is viewed as a “capper”. Any sharing of legal fees between an attorney and an employment agency is further viewed as the illegal practice of “fee splitting”.
Usually, attorneys who participate in capping and fee-splitting arrangements are unable to sustain a law practice through legitimate means and most likely have a checkered history with the agencies and courts in which they interact. It is no secret that the Immigration Service and Department of Labor are aware of those practitioners and law firms who have a reputation for filing frivolous or false applications with those agencies, or have a record of fraud and abuse of their own clients. Unfortunately, clients of these practitioners can only suffer from any association with an attorney who has a reputation for unethical behavior.
An employment agency simply cannot bill or charge a client for legal services, including immigration services. Fee splitting and capping is illegal, and for repeat offenders, may constitute a felony punishable by two to three years in state prison. The California Business and Professions Code Section 6154 states that a contract between attorneys and victims of fee splitting and/or capping is void and unenforceable providing a basis for a refund of client fees. Under the law, a client can suspend payment and seek refund and return of all moneys paid to this agency or law firm.
If you or someone you know has obtained legal services through an employment agency and makes payments to the employment agency for immigration benefits such as an H-1B visa application, it is highly recommended that you seek reputable and qualified legal counsel immediately. A well-informed and qualified practitioner can inform you of your rights in seeking a return of your fees, and properly advise you as to how you should proceed with your immigration case. You deserve to have an attorney who is honest, who practices with integrity, and who has your best interest in mind.