A legal consultation with a good-to-great immigration attorney is neither cheap nor is it lengthy. The normal length of a consultation is 30 minutes, and it can easily run you several hundred dollars. Therefore, it is important that you take the following steps to maximize the value of your consultation, whether it is telephonic or in person:
Tip #1 - Create a Chronological Summary of Your Immigration Case
Organize your immigration paperwork in chronological order, and put a cover sheet on top to show the attorney your immigration history at a glance. Example:
6-15-00 Entered U.S. on F-1 Student Visa 6-22-04 Graduated with B.S. in Computer Science from NYU 7-01-04 to 7-01-05 Optional Practical Training - Worked as Computer Professional for Hi-Tech Systems - $45K/year 6-5-05 Change of Status to H-1B - Systems Analyst - Intel - $75K/yr. 1-4-06 PERM Application Filed 4-5-06 PERM Application Approved 5-1-06 I-140 Filed (Still Pending) Want to change employers.
Tip #2 - Always show the attorney your Passports showing all your entries into the U.S., your I-94, and copies of all approvals and denials issued by the government.
Tip #3 - If you are in Removal Proceedings, make sure the attorney gets to read your Notice to Appear, the notice for your next hearing, copies of all applications for affirmative relief, approvals, denials, appeal briefs, etc.
Tip #4 - If you have ever been arrested, show the attorney a copy of the complete record (charge, plea, judgment and sentence). DON'T tell the attorney that "I was convicted of 415 P.C., spent 10 months in prison, but I didn't really do it."
Tip #5 - If you have been represented by other immigration attorneys in the past, provide the attorney with their names, addresses and other contact information.
It is truly amazing that persons will answer questions like "Who was the attorney who submitted your H-1B?" with answers like "I think his name was "Rob" or "Bob" or something like that. He was the company's attorney, and I really don't remember his name." Sometimes a person has had 3 or 4 different attorneys (usually a bad sign) and can only remember one or two of their names.
Tip #6 - Do some research on the Internet before your consultation.
Don't just call an attorney, and say, "How can you help me stay here?" Smart clients know the difference between an H-1B, an L-1A and an E-2 visa. They know what an EB-1, an EB-2 and an EB-3 are. The more you know about your immigration situation before your consultation, the better your chances of getting something positive from the consultation.
Tip #7 - Write down a list of questions in advance, and show them to the lawyer at the beginning of your consultation.
Tip #8 - Always tell your attorney the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
He is trying to help you. He does not work for the Immigration Service, and is not going to turn you in even if you tell him that your stay in the U.S. is not legal. Lying to your attorney is like cheating at solitaire. You are only hurting yourself.
Tip #9 - Reveal all. This is not the time to be modest or embarrassed.
If you are HIV positive, were convicted of shoplifting or your marriage is falling apart, the lawyer needs to know. Similarly, if you were nominated for a major award, earn a high salary or just returned from your honeymoon in Bora Bora, be sure to tell the attorney.
Tip #10 - These days, it is far more important to select an attorney based on his experience and expertise than it is to choose a local practitioner.
Most of our clients reside in other states and we obtain temporary visas and green cards for them without ever meeting them in person. You may find yourself completing an online form in preparation for your consultation. In order to ensure that your are sending personal information over a secure connection (SSL), before completing the online questionnaire look for a small icon shaped like a pad lock. Once you have located the icon, double click to display the site's security certificate. To ensure the validity of the certificate, make sure that the "issued to" name is the name of the company or office whose site you are visiting and that the validity date has not expired.
Taking these quick and simple cautionary steps will ensure that the personal information that you are sending via the Internet is properly encrypted, and will not be available to a third party. If the certificate has expired and/or a box pops up with the words "Security Alert", you should not schedule a consultation with that attorney. For an example of what a "Security Alert" looks like, see http://shusterman.com/securityalert.html (http://shusterman.com/securityalert.html)