How to find an immigration lawyer? The U.S. immigration system can be complicated. But a lawyer can help you make that journey with ease. Many of them are hard workers, prominent experts who genuinely want to help. They also cope with a complex, delay-prone bureaucracy; and dealing with more frustrations than ever since the COVID-19 pandemic caused many immigration office closures and further delays. However, a lousy immigration attorney can overcharge you, fail to provide the promised services and waste your time. Whether you seek to apply for a visa or green card, avoid deportation, or use it for some other immigration benefit, make sure you hire the right immigration attorney. Here are some tips on how to find a good immigration lawyer.
Where and How to Find an Immigration Lawyer
Immigration legislation is one of the more difficult areas. So, it’s crucial to find someone who experienced it. That’s why researching the biographies and reviews of a lawyer is a necessary step. Avvo and Aila online directories include a description of each attorney that works in the city you need.
Non-profit agencies that provide accredited legal services offer services at a low cost or sometimes even free of charge. They are a great opportunity and help many people each year. However, agencies like these can rarely assist you in all requests, resulting in long wait times. Such non-profit organizations may also have limited scope or do not provide services in all areas of immigration law. So when searching for low-cost immigration agencies, make sure the organization you choose can solve your specific situation.
Tips On How to Find an Immigration Lawyer
Check Their Experience
As immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of U.S. legislation, be cautious of lawyers that work in many areas simultaneously (like personal injury, business, etc.) Look for a licensed lawyer that focuses and has the experience, especially in immigration law. Generally, you’ll want to find someone with at least five years of practice, preferably in cases similar to yours.
Questions to ask:
- What experience you have with a situation similar to mine?
- How many years have you been working with immigration legislation?
- How will you solve my case?
- Who else will help you with my request?
- How will we contact each other (email/phone/messenger/in-person)?
- Do you have a list of clients that I may call?
Lawyers have different fee schedules with varying ranges of price. Make sure you asked if your attorney charges a flat fee or by the hour. While you don’t want to pay the most expensive attorney, finding the lowest-cost lawyer probably isn’t a great strategy as well.
Questions to ask:
- Should I pay a flat fee or an hourly rate?
- Will I pay for other costs such as postage, couriers, and printing?
- When will payments be due?
Do a quick background check on the attorney to make sure the expert is licensed, well-educated, and in a good position, or if he/she has ever been subject to disciplinary action. It’s free of charge. Most state bars allow you to find information about the attorney by name or bar number online.
Immigration Lawyers to Avoid
Not all lawyers are reliable and reasonable. This relates to immigration lawyers as well. There are some tips on how to avoid bad situations.
Avoid Lawyers Who Contact You from USCIS or Other Immigration Offices
Avoid lawyers who request you at an immigration office or courthouse. The legal expert sees this as unethical behavior. This technique for attracting clients finds you when you are potentially vulnerable. And it’s not a good sign. In addition, any good immigration lawyer will probably be too busy practicing immigration law and working for their clients to spend their time advertising themselves and looking for new clients this way.
Make Sure You’re Dealing With a Real Immigration Attorney (Not a “Visa Consultant,” “Notario,” or “Petition Preparer”)
Would you ask a pharmacist to replace your heart valve or your doctor to help you with taxes? I’m sure that not. For the same reasons, only a practicing attorney should be hired to assist in your immigration matters. Only immigration lawyers may provide you legal advice. Unfortunately, in many cases, non-lawyers offer little value other than a typing service. In the worst cases, they might take your money and disappear or fill out your forms in wrong and dangerous ways without telling you the meaning of what they’re doing.
Avoid Attorneys Who Give Unethical Advice or Make Illegal Offers
Runaway from any immigration lawyer who suggests that you do something suspicious: perhaps lie on an application or to a USCIS officer, give somebody extra money with which to bribe an immigration authority, or buy a fake green card from him or her.
Be Skeptical of Unrealistic Promises
Not even the best lawyers can assure success. Finally, the result of your case depends on an immigration judge, the Department of Homeland Defense, and/or USCIS. Any lawyer claiming he or she has a 100% guarantee and assuring you a particular outcome may need to be more closely evaluated.
How Much Does an Immigration Lawyer Charge?
Legal fees differ widely depending on the services requested. For example, hiring an attorney to help fill in a family-based immigration petition correctly will be much less costly than hiring an attorney to defend you in a deportation (removal) case.
Here are some typical legal fees:
- Application for Employment Authorization (Work Permit): $300-600
- Citizenship/Naturalization Application: $500-1,500
- Family-Based Green Card Petition: $800-3,000
- Employment-Based Petitions: $1,500-7,000
- Asylum Application: $1,000-6,000
- Adjustment of Status Application: $600-2,500
- Deportation Defense: $2,000-15,000 (and could be more expensive if the case involves many court appearances or complex defense strategies)
Some attorneys might charge much more if they have a reputation and many years of practice. Also, it depends on the area they are working in the more expensive U.S. cities are New York and San Francisco, or use specialized tools and processes, or have other reasons to set higher fees.
If the lawyers’ costs are beyond your capacity to pay, but you still need legal help, you have several other variants. One is to agree with the lawyer to share work. Using this arrangement, the lawyer would work with discrete tasks only, at the hourly rate: perhaps consult with you about the issue causing you difficulty, review a document, or attend an interview. And you would be responsible for the follow-up or rote work, such as completing the application forms and translating documents, letters, statements, and other references.
Before You Start…
Before you start your immigration process, it’s better to learn and research what the process includes. To immigrate legally to the United States, you must meet specific requirements and the type of visa, which you will apply, depends on it. In this detailed guide, you can find the steps on how to immigrate to the USA.
As a spoiler of this article, I want to tell you that the most exciting option to immigrate for today is the nonimmigrant visa O-1. O visas are for those with extraordinary skills or achievements. The requirements of obtaining this type of visa are that you need an agent or employer to apply for you and the availability of publications. With the first rule, an employer or a lawyer can assist you. If you don’t have publications about your achievements, this situation also can be changed. Check out the PRnews service. It contains an enormous catalog of credible newspapers and magazines, where you may contact directly with journalists, who will estimate your achievements and post articles about them.
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To Sum Up
It is estimated that cooperating with an immigration attorney to help you with an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa application can save you four weeks or more in processing time. An immigration attorney can offer you what type of visa fits you ideally and can help you compile a valid application the first time around. This will save you time and money and could help you avoid receiving a rejection of your application or a request for more evidence.