Top Ten Immigration Scams

By David Seminara on July 24, 2011

There are anywhere from 11-20 million illegal immigrants living in the U.S. When I worked as a consular officer at American embassies overseas I saw so many examples of visa and immigration fraud that it’s hard for me to understand why so many haven’t figured out how to game the system and legalize their status. This is a light-hearted look at some of the most popular scams, in reverse order of their relative popularity. Please do not email me to ask for details on how you can carry out these schemes.

10. I’m with the band. Every year thousands of musicians and other types of entertainers come to the U.S. on P visas to perform in the States, but entertainers in poor countries are often bribed to put ringers, i.e. non-entertainers who simply want to emigrate on their list of performers.

9. Jump ship. Get a low paying job on a cruise ship which docks in U.S. ports. Your passage may not include a date with Vicky Stubbing, but your C-1 transit visa will give you 30 days on land, plenty of time to get lost and forget what ship you were supposed to return to.

8. Find God. Or at least an R-1 visa, which is supposed to be for “religious workers” with vocations coming to the U.S. to perform some religious function in a church, mosque, synagogue etc. in the U.S. But because the government doesn’t discriminate, you can be like Borat and say you worship at the Church of the Mighty Hawk, and still get your visa.

7. Transfer yourself to a P.O. Box in the States. Crooked immigration attorneys have long known how to abuse the intra-company transfer, or L-1 visa, which is intended for employees of multinational firms who are being transferred from one branch of a company to another, but is commonly used by marginally employed con artists who set up P.O. boxes in the U.S. and then “transfer” themselves and their fictitious 1 person corporations to the U.S.A.

6. Trade yourself for a player to be named later. Sign up for an exchange program but forget the going home part.

5. Reinvent yourself. Arrive on a tourist visa, and adjust to student status by signing up for classes at an attendance optional open-enrollment community college. Even after you finish your studies, you’ll be granted a year of OPT - optional practical training - which will give you plenty of time to land a job in the States.

4. In my country there is problem. Clam asylum. There are plenty of reasons why your home country is too scary to return to. Even the nicest countries have their flaws. Vegetarians have a right to flee Germany due to the preponderance of bratwurst and other encased meats there; Italian women are justified in fearing Prime Minister Berlusconi and his “bunga-bunga” parties; and the Dutch can claim they can’t bear to have to wear those painful wooden shoes.

3. Sweep them off their feet; put yourself at the front of the green card line. Marry an American, or someone who just won the green card lottery in order to get a green card. You’ll have to put up with us for two years if you want a green card, but if we become just too unbearable, you can always 86 us and pursue other options. If you’re too chicken to actually tie the knot, just get engaged and you can, as Bob Barker used to say, come on down, with a K visa.

2. Business and Pleasure. Visitors who arrive in the U.S. with tourist visas are stamped into the country for 6 months, and can legally extend their visas for an additional six months, up to 18 months in total. You can then leave the country, come back and then start the clock again. As the Go-Go’s once crooned, vacation’s all I ever wanted.

1. Endless Vacation. Overstay your tourist visa. An incredible number of “legal” immigrants arrive with a tourist visa before figuring out how to adjust their visa status. Right off the plane, you’re eligible for all sorts of goodies, including free public education for your children, in-state tuition at any number of U.S. states, affirmative action if you’re from the right part of the world, and a host of other treats. Your chance of being caught and deported? About as likely as the Cubs turning into the Yankees.