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A friend living in the US was planning to open his own store and agreed to sponsor me so I could move there (with my family) once the store was open, knowing I had experience and skill in the field and that our family wanted to move to the US.

To strengthen my resumé — and build my immigrant specialized worker visa case — for three years I worked hard to earn professional certificates, attending courses and working in different stores to gain experience and become truly specialized in that field (related to the food industry).

During the same three years, as my friend continued planning and working to find and rent a place to open his store, he kept encouraging me and promising me he would hire and sponsor me once everything was ready. He shared the store layout, the pictures of the place he found, even the work-in-progress as he was furnishing the store. We were only a few months away from seeing the dream become a reality.

Now, please note that we hired the same immigration law attorney to assist us in our journey. My life, and that of my whole family, revolved around this promise and this life-changing move for the whole time. When the papers were almost ready, after we had paid the first half of the attorney's fee, and as we were basically about to book the visa interview with the US consulate in our country, my friend/sponsor-to-be changed his mind and went back on his promise citing irreconcilable differences. My repeated attempts to understand his decision and to change his mind, after all I (and my family) had gone through, were met with contempt. He refused to listen and then he even acted so as to prevent me from contacting him ever again, in the meantime spreading slander and biased opinions against me with common friends and acquaintances.

In my country, a potential employer is liable if it makes false promises to a potential employee and will be required at least to pay damages for the negative financial (and even psychological/emotional) consequences, unless there are serious reasons for going back on the promise/agreement to hire that person. How does it work in the US (maybe different States have different laws in this respect). Is my story an example of a potential employer making false promises to hire (and sponsor in this case) and then changing his mind unreasonably, causing heavy (financial and psychological) damages?

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  • Did you sign any contract with them? Did they gain anything from making those false promises to you? Did you pay them any money?
    – nvoigt
    Mar 14 at 15:04
  • No signed contract, just a (strong) verbal agreement/promise that he had a job ready for me (in fact, as he was preparing his own visa case to get a visa as an entrepreneur, he would sponsor me as a specialized worker needed for his company). He did not gain anything financially speaking and I did not pay him any money - but I lost a few thousands dollars (immigration lawyer's fees, mostly), three years of my life, and a lot of broken dreams and plans. The emotional damage done to me and to our whole family has been much more than the money lost, all things considered. Mar 15 at 10:21

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This is probably a scam

I don't know how you met this friend (the term used advisedly), but if it was online or through distant contacts, it's almost certain this was a scam from the beginning. That is, they never intended to open a restaurant; that was all smoke and mirrors to string you along until you paid their accomplice (or them under a different identity), and then they cut you loose. While three years is a long time to get a payoff for a scam, they may well be running this on hundreds or even thousands of people and that adds up to serious cash flow.

If it is a scam, your chance of recovering your money is essentially zero. The person will have laundered it, is hiding behind a false identity, is likely not even located in the USA, and is probably part of a large organised crime operation. That said, please report it to the FBI and your local law enforcement; every little piece of information helps.

Also, while you can mourn your lost money, don't give yourself a hard time for being tricked: people don't fall for scams because they're stupid; they fall for them because they're people.

However, on the off-chance this isn't a scam ...

Contract

Do you have a contract with this person? That is, is there an agreement, preferably in writing, that:

If so, then you can seek to recover damages through a lawsuit. However, for this to be economically worthwhile, especially if you are conducting it remotely, you would need to have lost tens or hundreds of thousands; if you are only out a few thousand dollars, your costs will swallow up anything you might get back.

Promissory Estoppel

In some US jurisdictions, if your friend made a clear and unrestricted promise to you that he would give you a job, and he knew you were spending money in reliance on that promise, this might create a cause of action. However, this is state-specific.

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