I am in the US and applying for Adjustment of Status. Do I need an immigration attorney?

Heather Louise Garvock

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Immigration Attorney

Contributor Level 13

Posted almost 2 years ago. 1 helpful vote

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Every year thousands of immigrants successfully navigate the US immigration system and receive their green card. With so many people choosing that route, it is easy to think the path to green card is a cakewalk. This Avvo Guide will help you decide whether self-representation is right for you and your family by recognizing some of the signs that a call to counsel may be in order.

I used to have a J-1 visa.

  • Should I hire an attorney? It depends. If you don’t know whether you are subject to the 2-year return requirement, you should definitely call an attorney. If you know you are subject to the requirement, but you fulfilled it by living in your home country for two years, you may be able to skip calling the attorney as long as you have ample evidence of your fulfillment of the requirement. If you haven’t fulfilled the requirement and you need a waiver, you definitely should contact an attorney.
  • What can an attorney do? An attorney can help you determine if you are subject to the requirement and if you need a waiver. If you need a waiver, an attorney can examine the specific facts of your case and determine how likely it is that your waiver application will be approved.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? Your application could be denied. If you are out of status when it is denied, you may be placed into removal proceedings.

At some point in my past I was arrested, pleaded guilty, pleaded no lo contender (no contest), or convicted by a judge or jury for a crime.

  • Should I hire an attorney? Most definitely.
  • Why should I hire an attorney? Many crimes carry immigration consequences that can lead to the denial of your green card application or your removal from the United States. Sometimes, a waiver is available to help you overcome the immigration consequences of your run-in with the law. Even expunged crimes can lead to trouble with immigration.
  • What can an attorney do? An attorney can review the conviction and tell you what the immigration consequences are. If the conviction is minor, the attorney may even tell you that you can proceed with adjustment on your own. If the conviction is more serious, the attorney can help you prepare a waiver that may lead to the issuance of your green card.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? If you are inadmissible or deportable, your application could be denied and you could be placed into removal proceedings. Even if your conviction does not make you inadmissible or deportable, the interviewing officer may deny your application as a matter of discretion.

I need my green card by a certain date.

  • Should I hire an attorney? You should seriously consider it, taking into account what would happen if you did not have your green card by that date.
  • Why should I hire an attorney? Average green card processing is five months; however, it can take much longer if you are not careful. By failing to include all the required documents with your application, processing time can easily be extended by anywhere from a month to years (in rare circumstances).
  • What can an attorney do? An attorney prepares your application, helps you gather the necessary documents, and reviews the application and supporting documents to ensure it is complete and accurate. This process minimizes the risk that USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) and can greatly reduce the amount of time you are waiting. For example, while the average processing time is five months, many attorneys have the majority of their cases approved in under four months.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? You can wait needlessly. If you fail to respond to an RFE in a timely manner, your application may be denied.

I entered the United States without inspection (illegally).

  • Should I hire an attorney? Most definitely.
  • Why should I hire an attorney? One of the requirements for Adjustment of Status is a lawful entry into the United States. If you cannot prove that you made a lawful entry, generally speaking, you cannot get your green card in the United States. There are limited exceptions to this general rule, the most common one being for persons with petitions filed before April 30, 2001.
  • What can an attorney do? An attorney can tell you whether you spend the time and money applying for adjustment. If adjustment is out of the question, the attorney could determine if consular processing (an alternative path to a green card) is possible in your particular situation.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? Your application will be denied and you may be placed into removal proceedings.

I have previously filed applications with USCIS and I don’t know what happened to the application or the application was denied.

  • Should I hire an attorney? Most definitely.
  • Why should I hire an attorney? When USCIS denies certain applications, they may send the file to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to start removal proceedings. If removal proceedings were commenced (with or without your knowledge) and you did not attend, you may already be under an order of removal. Even if your case was not referred to ICE, previous denial indicate that there may be some problems with your case that need to be addressed by an attorney.
  • What can an attorney do? They can help you determine if there is an outstanding removal order and if there is, reopen the case to allow you to adjust your status. If there is no removal order, an attorney can help you understand what went wrong in your previous case and avoid further denials.
  • What is the worst thing that can happen? If you are already under a removal order, ICE could execute the removal order by placing you under arrest and physically removing you from the country without further hearing proceedings.

Additional Resources

To find a lawyer: http://www.ailalawyer.com/ For more information about current news in immigration, visit my blog: http://www.miimmigrationnews.com

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