NEW LAW PROTECTS IMMIGRANTS FROM UNSCRUPULOUS
SERVICE PROVIDERS AND SCAMS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2004
DCA Conducting Routine Inspections Citywide and Encourages
Immigrants to File Complaints
The New York City Department of Consumer
Affairs (DCA) is reminding immigrants and immigrant service
businesses that a new law outlining rules for fee-based
immigration service providers has taken effect. The DCA
is enforcing this new law through routine patrol inspections
in all five boroughs, and encourages anyone wishing to file
a complaint to call 311, the Citys 24-hour hotline,
or online (in English and Spanish) at www.nyc.gov/consumers.
Complaints can be filed anonymously, and with the assistance
of 311 operators with access to approximately 170 languages.
Under Local Law 31, any person or business
that offers immigrant assistance services* within New York
City must do the following.
Maintain a $50,000 surety bond.
Provide a written contract that itemizes
all services, and that lists all fees and costs to be
charged for services. Contract must be written in the
language understood by consumers. If other than English,
an English version must also be provided.
Post signs and disclaimers in advertising
stating the provider is not an attorney or accredited
by the Board of Immigration Appeals, and that providers
may not give legal advice. Signs must be conspicuously
posted and in all languages in which services are provided
at the location.
Retain for three years, copies of all
documents prepared or obtained for the customer.
Allow consumers to cancel any contract
within three days and receive a full refund.
*Attorneys, not-for-profit organizations,
federally accredited immigration service providers, elected
officials, and government employees are exempt.
Under Local Law 31, immigrant service providers
subject to this law cannot:
Charge fees to provide, distribute, or
submit official government documents/forms.
Charge fees for services not performed.
Fail to provide consumer with copies of
documents filed or sent on behalf of consumer; or refuse
to return original documents.
Advertise legal services or give legal
advice concerning an immigration matter.
Imply that they have special influence
with government entities, or make guarantees unless there
is a basis of fact and it is in writing.
Disclose any information to immigration
authorities without knowledge or consent of the consumer.
Violators face penalties including maximum
fines of $2,500 for the first offense, and $5,000 for each
Visit the Department of Consumer Affairs
web site at www.nyc.gov/consumers