Hiring a lawyer means a lot more than simply having someone fill out the forms for you. A lawyer is supposed to review the client's immigration history in order to determine whether there could be issues with the application. For example, a lawyer should know in advance whether a waiver would be required based on an analysis of your wife's immigration history.
Since you brought it up, did your wife and daughter come to the US with a visa and were inspected and admitted? If so, there might be a chance for them to adjust here in the US without leaving back to their country of origin. Of course, several other things need to be taken into consideration, such as whether they ever left the country, how long was their period of unlawful presence prior to leaving the country if they ever did, if there are criminal charges involved, in what circumstances their visas were cancelled, etc.
In the end, it's your decision whether you want to take the risk of doing it yourself. But I would recommend at least consulting with a reputable attorney before filing anything else just to be sure. Good luck.
[This answer is for general purposes only; it does not constitute advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.]
The only person that can answer that question is you. As you know, there is no requirement to hire an attorney for an immigration matter. Therefore, it all depends on your comfort level in handling the forms. Many people successfully file immigration petitions on their own. However, if you decide you want the assistance of an attorney, you could always shop around and see if there is someone to do the case for a reasonable fee.
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If you have gathered all the forms necessary for your petition then I agree you could fill them out by yourself. If you receive an RFE which is a request for evidence after you file, consulting an immigration attorney will be necessary to help you address the items requested.
When you get to the waiver phase, I agree that you will need to hire an attorney to submit the brief for you.
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I think I'll wish you luck and hope you succeed.
In case you get stuck, however, an immigration lawyer who knows what he/she is doing will cost you much more to clean up the mess than what he/she would have cost you had you had the lawyer from the beginning, when things were still looking good.. And with all due respect, you are wrong about the "consul". Lastly, having a master's degree (I don't know in what field) is not relevant and cannot help you comprehend the complex (and illogical) immigration process and procedure.. Two diametrically opposed galaxies, am afraid. Again, I wish you the best and hope you don't suffer.
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How do you know you didn't need the attorney? The attorney doing a good job might be why it seems to easy to you.
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Hindsight is 20-20 . While it may appear that the I-130 went smoothly and you could have done it yourself, the success of that petition is likely due to the experience of the lawyer whose preparation made it more likely than not the petition would be approved. There is no rule requiring you to hire an attorney, but there is a reason we are specialists in this field.
For some people and in some situations, hiring an immigration attorney is akin to hiring an accountant - you could file your taxes, but it will take you three times as long as raise the risk of mistakes. If you are accustomed to working in a professional environment in which details must not be overlooked, you may well have no problem doing such work on your own. It may be worth consulting with an attorney briefly, just to see if there are any grounds of inadmissibility or other pitfalls that you have overlooked - getting surprised during such a process can lead to extremely bad consequences.
I will agree that such arguments will not apply in the case of a waiver - these are much more complicated than your typical filling out of forms and, in and of itself, is something that needs to be done well and done right the first time around. An experienced attorney will know what to include and what not to include, as well as how best to evidence the claims being made. Details that you are likely to overlook could well add strength to your waiver and may not have been included but-for the experienced eyes of an attorney. Also, consider that attorneys vary widely - a truly good attorney is going to provide a lot of value, even in the more mundane and straightforward processes (Whereas a not so good attorney may not add much value even in the more complicated waiver process).
Lastly, I worry about your statement that "it all depends on the consul" as this points to troubling assumptions about the nature of admissibility and procedural requirements that may be effecting your decision-making. Speak with a few attorneys in order to find one that you trust and, at the very least, consult with him or her to make sure you fully understand the process and your particular situation before diving in without a life jacket.
I have a doctorate, and I also live in a city. None of which makes me think I can be a better journalist than a professional journalist like yourself. An attorney that does a good job leaves you unaware of the pitfalls of these applications because they already know the common pitfalls and mistakes related to these applications. For most people, the small expense of an immigration attorney is worth the assurance that it is done right. If you would like to discuss your case, we can help you in Chula Vista.
Well, the reason most petitioners need a lawyer is to have someone on their side who presumably know the ins and outs of the immigration system. In short, you want to avoid costly mistakes that can derail a petition or delay the processing of it considerably. It is true that some lawyers charge way too much for simple petitions. That is why it is a good idea to shop around before retaining a lawyer. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to complete the DS-260 or the I-864 yourself. However, make sure you follow the instructions strictly, or you may make mistakes that will require a lawyer to fix. That would be worse.
Immigration law is a very complex matter. In my own practice, I often see people who failed to use an attorney or who hired a "notario" or someone inexperienced who then causes serious problems which sometimes cannot be fixed. Anyone can fill out a form, but immigration lawyers can evaluate a case for eligibility, the strength of the case, and to determine whether an individual will be putting his/herself at risk by filing any type of application or petition. Particularly in the consular processing context, you do not want to do something like that without first consulting with an experienced immigration attorney. There may be inadmissibility issues that you are not aware of which could lead to your loved one being separated from you and forced to remain outside the United States for ten years.
Because you cannot possible know all the legal requirements and want to complete the process correctly?
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