ImmigrationDirect.com deceives and cheats applicants for U.S. Citizenship, specifically U.S. Permanent Residents (those holding "green cards") into paying an exorbitant $149 fee by substantially representing the $149 to be a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (US C.I.S., a unit of the Department of Homeland Security) application fee associated with the submission to the U.S. gov't of form N-400 "Application for Naturalization" (see uscis.gov for the legitimate form & related information). For example, images such as an American Flag (stars & stripes) are depicted next to the ImmigrationDirect.com URL; the application fee is not clearly marked as being a fee to a commercial company for the service of generating an application form (rather than the U.S. gov't fee for processing the form); applicants are misdirected to the ImmigrationDirect.com website after seeking the legitimate dot-gov URL.
At the end of the lengthy Q&A process a long (26 pp. in our case) series of pages is presented to be printed. Buried in this is an N-400 application form completed with the private information that had been provided to the website -- for the highway-robbery sum of $149; the applicant only realizes (to his or her chagrin and indeed mortification) at the completion of the process that the "application fee" is fraudulent and will not cover any of the legitimate expenses involved in having the N-400 processed (see below for a fuller explanation).
Now, this N-400 form can easily be completed by the same applicant without any cost whatsoever. The N-400 is available electronically, with detailed instructions, at the U.S. C.I.S. website (see http://www.uscis.gov or http://bit.ly/RMn4U), where it is provided as a most-frequently-searched-form in Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format, and can be electronically filled out at one's PC.
Pivotal to this fraud (as discussed further below), the actual application fee for the U.S. CIS to process the N-400 form is $675 (i.e. $526 over than the fraudulent $149 suggested by the ImmigrationDirect.com website).
Upon completion of the lengthy ImmigrationDirect.com dialog (i.e., Q&A), it immediately becomes apparent that the $149 earlier remitted by credit card is being charged not to submit, but merely to print, the N-400 form.
The consumer at this point becomes dissatisfied. He or she wants his or her money back.
In our case, we were deceived by the ImmigrationDirect website at about 11:25 EDT on a Sunday evening Upon completion of the above-described process, we immediately attempted to rectify the situation. I e-mailed ImmigrationDirect. An e-mail reply was sent at 5:26 AM EDT (ostensibly, ImmigraitonDirect is staffed overseas; a subsequent e-mail was also sent at a similar nocturnal hour).
The e-mail instructed me to call 1-415-375-3145, ImmigrationDirect's "Customer Care Number" during 9 AM - 5 PM PDT (it was signed affably by a "Jack Lammont.").
Later that day, I telephoned, at 3:21 PM PDT. Immediately being placed on hold, and unable to reach a live operator at the ImmigrationDirect telephone number, I was told by a recording that I was the 7th caller in line. I was patient -- by any standard. Sixty (60) minutes later, I was the 2nd caller in line. By that time, at 4:21 PDT, it was apparent that ImmigrationDirect was not planning to answer the line. Having devoted a full hour, I felt I had no choice but to terminate the telephone connection after a full hour.
I contacted my credit card company which indicates that ImmigrationDirect has placed the charge on a "pending" status, but has not yet "posted" the charge. The bank agrees that ImmigrationDirect is a scam. Once the charge is "posted," they will assist me in disputing the charge.
It is abundantly clear that the ImmigrationDirect.com business model is based on deception. Applicants for adjustment of status from United States Permanent Resident to United States Citizen are "trolled" on the internet. Apparently, and this is true for us, it is possible for an internet user to be misdirected after correctly entering "uscis.gov" into the URL space in his or her browser to ImmigrationDirect.com. If one is not extremely careful, as I regret to say I was not on this particular occasion, it is not apparent that one has been redirected to a dot-com from a dot-gov website. How this occurred I cannot say, because we definitely went to uscis.gov to start with.
The sly, underhanded, and deceptive web design employed by ImmigrationDirect.com is obviously meant to convey an impression that it is a U.S. government (dot-gov) website, not a commercial (dot-com) website.
The request for a $149 so-called "application fee" is intentionally deceptive in two ways.
Firstly, the legitimate fee for a US C.I.S. application is also termed, per se, an "application fee." So the putative applicant has no terminology to distinguish a bona fide application fee from this fraudulent application fee. Apparently ImmigrationDirect.com intends, as it were, the meaning of "application fee" as "a fee paid to fill out and provide a consumer with the form required to file an application." Whereas the commonly used meaning of the term "application fee" in matters such as immigration (and other matters) is "a fee paid to the processor of an application, such as the U.S. Government, to cover the expenses associated with carrying out the legitimate tasks required to accept, review, authenticate, cross-check, verify, record, and issue the resulting documents associated with an application."
Secondly, the amount demanded, $149, for this fraudulent "application fee" is large enough to seem to be in the proper range of what the U.S. gov't might charge for processing the N-400 form. At the same time, the applicant might have heard elsewhere that the application fee is actually much larger than $149 (as stated above, it is currently $675) but not have studied the material he or she might have seen to this effect; therefore, the applicant is induced subliminally to feel relieved that the fee is more affordable than originally suspected to be and be more willing to complete the payment forthwith. Were the fraudulent fee to be in the range of, say, less than $50, the applicant would realize that this could not possibly be the actual fee charged by the US C.I.S. for processing the N-400 form. Alas, the legitimate cost is much higher than $149.
I would strongly advise any potential customer of ImmigrationDirect or FormsDirect (another name under which they apparently do business) to "abandon any hope, ye who enter here." I.e., do not remit funds or share personal identity-revealing data with the company.