Tips on Hiring a Professional Immigration Lawyer
You Can Always Represent Yourself. The first thing you should know is that USCIS does not require you to hire an Immigration lawyer to process your case. You can always represent yourself in your case.
There are plenty of people who represent themselves in Immigration cases. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they are not. However, if you represent yourself in an immigration case and the case does not go well then there can be very serious consequences. Depending on the case, the consequence could include removal from the United States (otherwise known as deportation).
Sometimes individuals represent themselves by filing their own paperwork with USCIS and the paperwork is not completed or it is completed incorrectly. In this case, an otherwise acceptable case can be delayed by months or even years. We have been contacted by some very smart people over the years (e.g. engineers, teachers, business people) who filed their own paperwork, made minor errors, and have had their cases significantly delayed due to errors in their paperwork.
Pitfalls of Avoiding the Expertise of an Immigration Law Attorney
If you end up deciding to represent yourself in an Immigration case please realize that a case you consider to be straight-forward, may not, in reality be a straight-forward case. There are traps for the unwary in immigration law.
I receive calls in my office every month from people who tried to handle cases themselves (or hired non-lawyers to help them) who are facing very serious consequences for themselves or loved ones. You should at least consult with an experienced immigration attorney prior to filing any immigration paperwork with USCIS.
Also, please do not rely on the advice of Immigration information officers. (Although you would think that you would always get good advice from USCIS unfortunately, this is not always the case). There are many good and knowledgeable Immigration information officers. However, Immigration information officers are not attorneys and are not in the business of representing you and your interests. They are not experts in Immigration law. More importantly, if you do get bad advice USCIS does not take any responsibility for any incorrect advice you may have received. You will likely be stuck with the consequences of any decisions you make based on relying on any information you receive from immigration information officers. Be very careful in this area.
Should You Hire a Non-Attorney for Immigration Law Advice with USCIS?
You can hire a non-attorney to type your paperwork. You can save some money by hiring a non-attorney to type your paperwork. However, you need to remember that every document you file with USCIS, even those that seem harmless, can have legal consequences. You will need to ask yourself whether it is in your best interests to be filing paperwork with the U.S. government, under penalty of perjury, which could affect your family’s future, with the help of a non-attorney.
Not All Immigration Law Attorneys have the same level of expertise. Just because an attorney has been licensed to practice in your state does not mean they have the level of expertise to handle your case. Your case is very important and should be handled by an experienced Immigration Attorney. You should ask the attorney questions to determine if they have the experience necessary to handle your case.
What Questions Should You Ask the Prospective Immigration Law Attorney? Before you hire anyone you should ask the immigration attorney these questions:
How long has he been a lawyer? (Some attorneys although they look distinguished, may be fresh out of law school and lacking in practical experience. Generally, although not always, the longer the attorney has been an attorney the better.)
Exactly how long has she been working in the immigration law arena? (Just because an attorney has been practicing law for 30 years does not mean that the attorney has been practicing immigration law that long. Your case may be her first immigration case. You do not want to be a guinea pig).
Is their practice limited to Immigration law or do they handle other areas as well? (Many attorneys handle one or two areas of law. That is fine. I would have concerns, however, if your attorney is handling several areas of law and immigration. It is difficult to stay on top of developments in one area of the law (especially an area which changes as much as immigration law does) let alone several areas at one time. You want an attorney who is handling immigration cases day in and day out.
How many cases like yours has this immigration attorney handled this year?
Was he unsuccessful in any of the cases? Why? (Was it because the client lied or misled him? Or was it due to incompetence?)
You should also ask the attorney for their bar number. You can then contact your state’s bar association and find out if they have had any disciplinary actions filed against them.
How Difficult Will It be to Reach Your Immigration Lawyer?
You should ask the attorney at your first meeting how difficult it will be to reach him if you have any questions. Generally, you can get a good idea by how quickly he has responded to you at this point. Also, factor in how long you have had to wait (and others have had to wait) in order to see the attorney. It is a good sign if the office appears to be run smoothly and the attorney seems to know his clients and their cases. However, if there are files all over the place, the receptionists or secretaries are rude, the attorney does not seem to know what is going on in his practice, or he has not returned your calls promptly so far then he is probably not the most organized attorney and this may not be a good fit for you.
Our office has a 24 hour rule. We try to return phone calls within 24 hours (at the latest). Almost always phone calls are returned the same business day. E-mail responses are done even sooner. We know our clients and are thankful for their business. They are always welcome to call us or to make an appointment to come and see us.
We would be happy to talk to you about your Immigration case. I have 20 years of experience handling Immigration cases and I practice Immigration law every day. My office would be happy to give you a free, confidential consultation. Please call us at 888-801-6558.