I am an immigrant to the US who have overstayed my visa alongside my family when we came here many years ago. My mother and sister received their Green Cards sometime later, but I did not because I was over 21 when they filed. I have just married a US citizen whom i've known since high school. We would like to start the process of filing for my green card, but the cost of hiring an attorney is pretty steep for us currently. My mother said she went through an approved agent of the USCIS when she did it, a paralegal, she said, and did not pay way too much. Question is, do I really need to hire an immigration attorney to go through this process? Thank you
You need to proceed with caution to be sure that the process is handled correctly. Just as with any profession, there are different price levels for different levels of expertise, knowledge, training, etc. In my opinion, immigration status is an extremely important part of a person's identity and ability to live and work in peace in the United States. It is not really possible to tell you whether or not you need to hire an experienced immigration attorney or not, because, without sitting down and having a thorough conversation with you about many different issues and potential problems, I don't know exactly what your possibilities for success are.
Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best.
If cost is the issue, seek representation of a pro bono attorney or attorneys who help out at non-profit organizations. I will not recommend going with a paralegal or a consultant as any advice offered by them is unauthorized practice of law. Immigration laws can be complicated; it is best to seek help from licensed professionals.
There are substantive requirements and procedural requirements that need to be met. A missed detail or incorrect entry can result in delay, frustration, elevated stress and possibly denial. Hiring an attorney can provide relief knowing that someone is there to guide you through the process. This is all the more important given that you overstayed your visa. Call around or talk to legal aid if you are on a limited budget. Be aware that paralegals cannot give legal advice, attorneys can. Best wishes.
It is very tempting to "just fill out the forms" and do it yourself, but I would strongly urge you to seek out low-cost representation by an attorney. I have seen countless people who have tried to go through someone who was not an attorney or BIA accredited representative, and who are now in very bad places. It's just not worth the risk. This is especially the case with adjustment of status. What's at stake is not just the money you paid. When an adjustment application is denied, people are generally put into removal proceedings.
Also, a note about "approved agents." I've never heard of one. The only people authorized to represent people with immigration are attorneys and Board of Appeals Accredited Representatives. Neither of these is an agent of the government. In fact I would run as fast as I could in the opposite direction.
Immigration law is one of the most complex areas of U.S. law. While it's seems like the cost of an attorney is steep, please consider the potential risk here.
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