EB-1A and EB-2 DIY versus hiring a lawyer
EB1-A and EB-2 visas allow an individual to petition himself or herself without a company sponsor. USCIS also lays out the requirements right on their website, so self-petitioning with a DIY kit should be fairly simple but read below for some thoughts about them before spending money on one.
DIY kits are cheaperOn this point, DIY is absolutely the cheapest option when compared to paying an attorney. Kits generally range in price from $50 to $250, plus the USCIS filing fee of $700 (or $2,140 total if using premium processing). Using a kit, your visa petition will cost you between $750 to $1,000.
However, depending on your circumstances, hiring an attorney may be a negligible cost in the grand scheme of things. If your visa is approved, especially if you are outside the U.S., you will need to move yourself and your family, sometimes without a job already lined up. International moving expenses, plus a gap in salary, will likely eclipse any attorney fees in the immigration process. However, if you are already in the U.S. and want to have a go at doing it yourself, and can part with the $700 filing fee, then a DIY kit may make sense.
You do all the work yourself anywayThis is a common sales tactic for DIY kits – that if you hire an attorney, they will just make you do everything anyway. It is true that you need to take time to make a detailed CV and collect evidence, including reference letters, but an attorney can help guide you through this. An experienced attorney will be familiar with the types of evidence that satisfy the criteria as well as common pitfalls to avoid. Several examples that could result in a petition denial include:
- Template reference letters. If your references work off a template that you provide, and you in turn provide the letters to USCIS, in the event of duplicated language between two different signers it can lead USCIS to become skeptical of all the evidence in the petition.
- Poor national interest argument. For EB-2 cases with a national interest waiver you need to not only show your exceptional ability, but that your field is in the national interest of the U.S. This is not a clearly defined term but if glossed over entirely, or argued in the wrong way, your petition is unlikely to be approved.
- Highlighting the wrong evidence. You will need to provide appropriate evidence to satisfy each criterion. In the example of media coverage, you will need to show media articles that are about you or your impact to your organization, that have been covered in major media. An attorney can help you determine which media reports are likely to qualify and which are best omitted. Of course, when in doubt you could just submit everything and see what sticks, but overwhelming USCIS with irrelevant evidence is unlikely to be as compelling as documentation that is targeted and concise.
No one knows your field as well as youThis is a true statement, but it is one that does not make a good argument. You will know your field better than an immigration attorney, but that does not mean USCIS has technical adjudicators that are familiar with industry jargon or advanced terminology. If you purchase a kit it is probably best to run your visa petition through a trusted friend or professional from outside your industry to ensure it makes sense to them. An immigration attorney can help distill your core skills and accomplishments and present them to USCIS, but you can do this yourself with an outside review. Be sure to explain the importance of any awards you receive, the financial impact of projects you supervised, and steer away from terminology that someone cannot understand from just reading your petition letter and CV.
The kit has all the templatesThis requires the most caution. Ensure the forms you are submitting are current by checking USCIS’ website. Furthermore, ensure that you submit ETA-750B, in duplicate, if you are filing an EB-2 with national interest waiver, and that your arguments comport with Matter of Dhanasar. Templates are a good starting point but lack the nuance for each person and may not have broad applicability. For example, a doctor or engineer template may not properly apply to an artist or architect. Templates and kits are also a onetime purchase that are unavailable for further guidance or help in the event of a Request for Evidence (RFE) or consular processing. An experienced immigration attorney will determine admissibility before you file your petition so your time and effort is not wasted when the day finally comes to interview for your green card.