Some Immigrants Are Being Victimized By Labor Certification Scam Artists

Recently, I have been consulted by several immigrants who tell me about their relatives in their native countries who think they are “purchasing” labor certifications from attorneys and employment agencies who promise to obtain an employer in the United States. These unscrupulous persons promise that, for a large fee, usually around $10,000 U.S. dollars, or more, plus costs, they will find an employer who will be willing to file a petition for overseas alien beneficiaries who they have never met and get them immigrant visas. These aliens, eager to find a way to immigrate to the United States, hear about this type of “arrangement” and believe that it sounds like a good opportunity.

Since a labor certification in California and most other places takes two to three years plus, why would an employer be interested in going through the complicated labor certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Immigration Service? Most legitimate employers decide their labor needs on a day-to-day basis, not what it might be three years from now. Clearly, these kinds of “arrangements” are not realistic. Also, in the real world, employers usually do not hire persons whom they have never met. I always advise my clients that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is not true.

The way that certain unethical lawyers and agencies solicit employers is through monetary bribes. A legitimate businessperson is not likely to deal with unethical lawyers and other con artists who are trying to sell the labor certification process on the basis that workers might be available two or three years from now. The only employers who are willing to accept these types of bribes are failing or marginal businesses that need money. Usually, marginal businesses also tend to fail. Normally it takes three years to completely process all of the necessary labor certification paperwork for a skilled worker position. Much of this time is spent waiting for the application to be processed by the State employment agency and the U.S. Department of labor.

To provide you with some background, the labor certification process involves three steps. The Application must first undergo processing by a state employment agency. In California, it is called the Employment Development Department (EDD). This agency carefully scrutinizes the employer and the job offered. The job offer must be publicly advertised and applicants must be interviewed. EDD closely supervises this process. After the EDD has completed its portion of the processing, the application is forwarded to the Department of Labor (DOL). Likewise, the DOL also carefully reviews the actions undertaken by the employer in assessing whether to certify or to deny the case. The DOL denies a large percentage of legitimate cases even when the alien is already working for the employer in the United States! In order to receive a labor certification from the DOL, the employer/petitioner, the beneficiary and the Attorney must work together carefully to ensure that the case will be successful. The final step involves processing and approval by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

In the case where a petitioning employer is “purchased” by bribes, the business will most likely have closed or declared bankruptcy or went out of business by the time that the employer’s financial information is required in the labor certification process. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting victim, he or she will probably remain completely ignorant whether the employer has closed down the business or otherwise disappeared with the bribe money. This is especially common in the cases of restaurants and auto repair shops due to the high probability of failures.

Even if the employer’s business remains intact, marginal businesses generally cannot provide proper documentation to convince the INS of its viability or legitimacy. Unfortunately, proof of financial viability is not required until the case reaches the U.S. Immigration Service roughly two to three years after the victim pays the attorney or some other scam artist. Often these businesses have not filed their tax returns for several years or cannot provide the payroll records that are always requested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service during the final stages of the labor certification process.

In the unlikely event that an “arranged” labor certification is approved by the INS, the victim’s case will still undergo extensive scrutiny at the Consulate. Consular Officers are very suspicious and will not easily approve cases where it is clear that the employer and the beneficiary have never met, or where the job offer does not appear to be genuine for any reason. For the very few cases that might slip by the INS, they now undergo another level of scrutiny at the Embassy. Consular officers can deny the cases or send them back to INS for further investigation.

Do not be fooled into thinking that this type of approach sounds legitimate or reasonable. Certain unethical individuals, some of whom unfortunately are even attorneys, think that there are “suckers born every minute”. In old Western movies, a traveling salesman would come into town selling snake oil, a miracle cure. Then, after he has taken all of the money from the townspeople, the snake oil salesman would disappear. The “miracle cure” never worked, and the people could not get their money back. This could happen to you. Fortunately for the snake oil victims, they would only lose a few dollars, not their life savings.

Do not allow yourself or any of your friends or relatives to be suckered into believing in something that appears to be a “miracle solution” to immigrating to the United States. There are many dishonest individuals who seek ways to “get rich quick” and have no intention of assisting you in immigrating to the United States. Consult honest and respected attorneys before giving your hard-earned money away to a con artist. Get a second opinion, otherwise, you may regret your decision and end up losing everything when you discover the truth. In this author’s opinion, less than 1% of these kinds of cases will be successful. Is it worth it?