Successfully steering your immigration case through the complex processes and numerous deadlines is extremely difficult if you don't have an immigration attorney.
Immigration law is constantly changing, and it's very difficult for most people to understand what's required and when. An experienced immigration attorney can prepare your petitions / applications; coach you through the USCIS interview; resolve issues on visas, green cards, and naturalization; and more.
What does an immigration lawyer do?
Most people hire immigration lawyers to help them quickly and accurately file their immigration paperwork. Because immigration attorneys have had years of experience filing for different immigrants, they understand the requirements and what to expect when interacting with USCIS and applying for US citizenship. An experienced immigration lawyer can help with nearly any immigration case, including:
Citizenship: An attorney can help you apply for naturalization, acquire derivative citizenship for your children, or obtain proof of citizenship.
Green card: A lawyer can help you file an immigrant petition and apply for adjustment of status to get a green card. If you are filing for a marriage-based green card, your lawyer can help you prepare evidence to prove your marriage is authentic.
Visa: A lawyer can help you apply to live in the United States for work, school, or travel. Traveling for extended periods of time without one is illegal and has serious consequences.
Asylum: if you are a refugee or facing persecution in your home country, an immigration attorney can help you apply for asylum in the United States.
Obtain legal status: If you do not have documentation or have overstayed a temporary visa, an attorney can advise you on your next step. If you are legally entitled to citizenship via the 14th amendment to the constitution then a lawyer can also help to prepare those papers.
When to hire an immigration lawyer
If you have a lot of spare time and an eye for detail, you might be able to complete your paperwork without an immigration lawyer. But, if you’re not sure which visa to apply for, which forms to fill out, what to say in response to questions on the forms, what fees to pay, or where to submit your paperwork in accordance with the laws, you might need a lawyer. Making mistakes on your application can delay a decision or even cause it to be rejected due to the current federal process, so an immigration lawyer can save you time and trouble.
An immigration attorney can help in any of these circumstances:
You’re confused by the paperwork. A lawyer can help fill out your application or look it over before you submit it, making sure you have all the required documentation. This can help you avoid the extra time and expense of having to redo all of your work.
You’re not sure which visa is best for you. Sometimes people qualify for more than one of the dozens of different visas available. A lawyer can help you decide which one may be best for your situation and you may be able to learn about more options than previously thought.
Your application or petition has been denied. A lawyer can help you understand why you’ve been denied, and file an appeal if you are eligible to do so. A key to getting an appeal is to act quickly and where necessary appeal to the supreme court to prove your case.
You have been arrested for a crime. You may also need a criminal lawyer, but an immigration lawyer will better understand the immigration impact of any potential plea. For example, pleading guilty to certain crimes could make you eligible for deportation leading to removal from the country.
You have received notice of a deportation proceeding against you. A lawyer can help you figure out if there is any way to stop it. Often times it is difficult to intervene with homeland security but not impossible.
Your application has been delayed. If your application seems to be taking longer than it should, a lawyer may be able to find out why. The enforcement of certain laws or checks may take more or less time than expected at any given time due to the number of applicants.
Immigration lawyer fees
Understanding the fee structure that the attorney uses is extremely important, as not being a citizen makes it hard to bring a case against an attorney that may rip you off. Fees for an immigration lawyer can vary widely based on various factors:
The lawyer’s experience
The size or reputation of the law firm
The specific details of your case
Many immigration lawyers charge a flat fee for certain kinds of cases, but your contract may include provisions for extra fees or hourly billing if your case runs into serious complications. Some lawyers may offer fixed fee immigration services for tasks such as reviewing documents which may be more easy to understand than an hourly rate. Make sure you understand how the lawyer charges before signing a contract.
How to evaluate immigration lawyers
It’s important to research multiple attorneys in the US in order to find the one with the necessary skills and experience for your case. Immigration law is complex, and many immigration lawyers specialize in just one or a few areas of the law. For example, filing for political asylum is quite different from filing for a work visa or for a green card.
Here are a few questions to ask a lawyer before hiring:
What kinds of cases do you handle?
How many cases of this kind do you handle each year? What outcome do you usually get?
How long have you been in practice?
What will you do to help with my case? What can I do?
How will we communicate? Will you keep me updated regularly?
How clearly the lawyer answers your questions will give you an idea of how familiar they are with your kind of case. Make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer and their preferred style of communication and compare a few to get an idea of what you think will work best. If you’re not fluent in English, you may also want to consider hiring a lawyer that speaks your native language. If you need help evaluating or choosing a lawyer, consider a 15 minute immigration consultation call with a lawyer.