How To Find A Good Immigration Lawyer

Finding an immigration lawyer can be a daunting task. Finding a good immigration lawyer can be even more daunting. The better way to think about it however,  is how can I find the right immigration lawyer?

For most people, finding a lawyer happens at the last moment when you suddenly need one. Often when this occurs there are usually two major concerns — is this person actually going to be able to help me? and how much is this going to cost? Needless to say rushing through the process of finding competent representation coupled with concerns about money are never a good mix. Not only can mistakes be made, but you might even incur thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal costs and still have a negative outcome in your case.

Overall, the most important thing to understand when starting your search for the right immigration lawyer is that immigration law can be very complex and the information available out there can be inaccurate. Immigration mistakes or errors can end up costing your family money or even worst federal imprisonment or deportation. Having or finding the right immigration lawyer might very well be the most important investment you will ever make to ensure your family’s future in the United States. As is often said, sometimes it’s better to leave it to the professionals.

To make this process easier, we’re going walk you through how to find the right immigration lawyer.

How To Find The Right Immigration Lawyer before an emergency arises

Being proactive in your search for the right immigration lawyer is always the better option. Taking the appropriate steps and doing due-diligence and research can greatly provide a sense of relief and confidence if a legal issue should arise in the future. By taking the time to research an immigration lawyer ahead of time gives you the ability to focus on what’s most important, your case. But where do you begin?

Before you begin your search for an immigration lawyer, here are Four Steps to take before your first meeting with an Immigration Lawyer. There you will find a checklist that will help you enter your first consultation prepared and help guide you when searching for the right immigration lawyer.


Finding The Right Immigration Attorney Time to Find a Lawyer!

Now that you’ve gone over the checklist to prepare for your search, let’s talk about the actual search for the right immigration lawyer for you and your family. There are many ways to find a good immigration lawyer. The first that might come to mind might be checking online but often great lawyers can be found through personal references. Ask family and friends. Contact university or other school alumni associations. You can even call your local immigration advocacy organizations in your community and check to see if they have a list of immigration lawyers that they would recommend. You can also check with your local library or community social clubs that target specific immigrant communities. And be sure to also give consideration to community reputation. Has the lawyer established a good name for himself or herself in the community? If your lawyer has a sterling community reputation, chances are it was earned through hard work. Although there is no one way to search for an immigration lawyer, personal or community references can be very helpful in distinguishing a good lawyer from a bad one. A strong reference from a friend or colleague is often the best indicator of whether a lawyer is good or not.

As you begin to make phone calls or appointments for first-time consultations with an immigration lawyer, there are several important things to consider. We’ve outlined some of the most important things to keep in mind as you find the right immigration lawyer for you and your family. Please keep in mind that a good lawyer or the right lawyer for you will always be open to answering your questions and provide the following information. If a lawyer is hesitant to answer your questions or gives misleading information, it might be worth considering finding another lawyer. The difference between a bad lawyer and a great lawyer is the ability for that lawyer to clearly communicate every step of the process regarding your case, all fees that might be included and be willing to answer any question you might have. Don’t be shy and ask if you are unclear or unsure about any step in the process!

Another important question that sits at the heart of most important things to consider when searching for the right immigration lawyer is cost. We’ve got a great outline to help navigate the cost of legal fees and more here: How Do Legal Fees Work?

Outside of cost however, what are some other things you should consider during your search? Here are more helpful tips:

What is the Lawyer’s Focus of practice?

Within immigration law, there are a variety of subspecialties – employment, family, asylum, deportation, etc. Consider going with a lawyer with a strong background in your particular type of case. Please also be aware that many lawyers list immigration law as one of a variety of types of matters they handle. It is tough enough for a full-time immigration lawyer to keep abreast of all of the developments in the practice area. It is nearly impossible to be a top-notch immigration lawyer while trying to balance being an expert in many other practice areas as well. So be mindful and be sure to find out if the lawyer is an immigration exclusive lawyer or not. While someone can be a good immigration lawyer and also be very competent in another practice area, watch out for lawyers where immigration is one practice area on a laundry list of claimed specialties. Make sure that the lawyer that you choose is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA is probably the immigration lawyer’s best resource for up-to-date information. While being an AILA member is not a sure sign of quality, it may indicate that the lawyer is keeping up with this rapidly changing field of law.

How Many Years of Practice Do They Have? How Qualified Are They?

The amount of years a lawyer has been in practice seems like an obvious consideration when choosing a lawyer. But choosing a lawyer with multiple years of experience isn’t always the best choice. In truth, it depends on what your needs are and the experience of the lawyer. Much of immigration law is unwritten and the longer one is in practice, the better one’s instincts become. But the opposite can be true as well. Lawyers who have been practicing for years may become lazy about staying up to date on the latest changes. Some of the worst lawyers practicing immigration law in this country are the ones who have been around the longest. So try and strike a balance.

Another thing to consider is their Board Certification. A few states certify lawyers in the practice of immigration law. If your lawyer practices in a state that does, make sure he or she has this credential. It is no guarantee of quality, but it can certainly be an indicator. Also, give some consideration to the the lawyer’s educational background. While many fine lawyers have come out of mediocre law schools and lousy lawyers come out of the best law schools, where a lawyer went to school can still be an indicator of a person’s ability to achieve. With numerous sources of information now available in the internet, you can often find out not only where a lawyer went to school but awards they may have won, publications they have in well-known Law Journals or even extra-curricular activities they engaged in during Law School that might benefit your case or your community.

Who is Doing the Work? A Lawyer or a Paralegal?

One of the ways immigration practices are attempting to keep costs down is to hire paralegals and legal assistants to do much of the work that immigration lawyers used to do on their own. In some markets, this may be the only way to keep costs low enough for people to afford to hire a lawyer. But you should know what you are paying for. Some of the most expensive immigration firms still with extremely high ratios of paralegals – sometimes as high as ten paralegals per lawyer. A more modest ratio of one to two paralegals per lawyer may mean that the firm is not too overloaded with work and it may mean that the lawyer you thought you were hiring actually knows what is happening on your case and has the time to speak with you about your case.

Local vs. National: Should I always use a Local Lawyer?

Unlike most fields of law, the location of your immigration lawyer is not nearly as important as you might think. Immigration law is strictly federal in nature. This means that it is basically the same across the country and a lawyer in one state practices under the same system as in every other state. Immigration law is almost entirely administrative as well. That means that most petitions are submitted by mail and personal appearances by an immigration lawyer are becoming less and less common. It is recommended that you get a local immigration lawyer if your case involves appearances before local immigration judges or the local U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) district office. In these cases, local lawyers know the personalities and procedures of the local immigration office better than someone across the country. If your case involves filings at a regional service center or dealings with consulates, then it doesn’t matter where your lawyer’s office is.

We hope that this outline helps you to find the right immigration lawyer for you and your family. No matter who you choose to represent your case, what’s most important is that you find a lawyer who really seems to care about your case. These are the lawyers that will go above and beyond to represent you and help you with your legal needs. Taking the time to research an immigration lawyer and finding the right one for your legal situation is the best investment you can provide to yourself and your family. When it comes to US immigration there are no shortcuts. The process is long, hard and takes time. But with the right immigration lawyer to guide you, US immigration can be a much less daunting affair.

If you require legal representation or are looking to begin your immigration journey, please contact our offices at Diaspora Law. We’ve got great references from our local community too! To check out our community partner organizations, click here.

How Do Legal Fees Work?

Lawyer’s fees can vary greatly and although it is tempting to always find the cheapest lawyer possible, cost should never be the only consideration given to choosing a lawyer. If you have trouble affording a good lawyer or you are part of a low-income community, there are programs out there to help. Understanding how legal fees work and how lawyer’s structure their pay can help you to make a better decision in choosing the right lawyer for your situation. Although lawyers’ fees vary greatly, there are two primary methods of pricing: an hourly rate or a flat fee. Occasionally, the lawyer may propose a mixed pricing structure. When you meet a potential lawyer for the first time consultation or when making initial phone calls to potential lawyers, it is very important that you understand how you will be charged for work on your case.

Difference Between Hourly Fees and Flat Fees?

Many lawyers charge by the hour or have hourly fees based on the time they and their staff spend working on your case. If your case is simple and does not require much time, this option might be for you. However, if your case is labor intensive, the hourly fees will add up quickly. You will pay not just for the time the lawyer spends working on the case, but also for the time each paralegal and legal assistant works the case as well. This also includes time when they are discussing your case amongst themselves and all the time you spend on the phone with them. Some lawyers charge a different rate for their time as opposed to the time of their support staff. Very often however, lawyers will use a Flat Fee for “routine” cases such as an H-1B or Labor Certification application. In this pricing model, you and the lawyer agree on the price ahead of time, regardless of how long the case may take to work. In this model, it is to the advantage of the lawyer to work your case as efficiently as possible. If unexpected complications arise that change the nature of your case, be aware that it may be necessary to re-negotiate the contract.

Can Hourly Fees and Flat Fees be combined?

Yes! With some complicated cases, a lawyer may not be able to assess a flat fee up front as it may not be certain how much work is involved in the case. The lawyer may suggest that the case be handled on an hourly basis. Since some cases can result in significant number of billable hours, you may wish to explore the possibility of converting the case to a flat fee after the legal fees have reached a certain figure. This would serve to limit the expense from your end and deter the firm from running up your fees. However, if your case involves considerable amount of court time and preparation, this may not be an option.

Other Costs to Keep in Mind!

In addition to the legal fees, it is important to understand what other costs you may be expected to pay. Ask about these costs up front as they may add significantly to the cost of your case. Be sure to ask about the cost of Photocopies, Filing Fees or other services such as document translation costs DNA testing or the cost of evaluating your credentials. Be sure to also ask when these must be paid such as government filing fees, etc.

What is a Retainer?

After the initial consultation the lawyer should send you a retainer agreement to sign. This agreement formalizes your relationship with the lawyer and establishes the scope of the case. It will include what the case is (i.e. an H-1B filing, a J-1 waiver, a case for permanent residency), the legal fees, the costs you will pay and when you are expected to pay them. Read this document carefully and understand the terms of the representation agreement. This is a legally binding agreement so make sure you are absolutely clear on the stipulations of your retainer agreement!

Four Steps to take before meeting an Immigration Lawyer

Before you begin your search for an immigration lawyer, here are Four Steps to take before your first meeting with an Immigration Lawyer. This checklist will help you enter your first consultation prepared and help guide you when searching for the right immigration lawyer.

Step 1: Assess your legal needs

Take the time to address what your current legal status is and do some research to find out what steps will need to be taken in the future to ensure that all of your legal immigration requirements will be met. Maybe you just recently decided to immigrate to the United States for work or family but don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you’ve just decided to get married to a foreign national. You might even already be a permanent resident in the United States but are thinking of becoming a U.S. citizen at some point in the future. You might even be an undocumented person who after careful consideration wants to transition to a legal status but needs guidance on how to ensure every step forward is done legally. No matter what your current immigration status is, it is critical that during these early stages you take the time to research and get legal consultation. Preparing as much as possible during the early stages of US immigration can prevent numerous legal problems further down the line. Another benefit of preparing ahead of time is that by learning the basic information and requirements regarding your immigration needs, you will have an important outline to work with when searching for the right immigration lawyer and provide you with a solid starting point.

A great place to start is the official United States government immigration website, US Citizenship and Immigration Services also known as USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov

Step 2: Know what to expect from an Immigration Lawyer

The right immigration lawyer should be able to give you an honest and thorough assessment of your case and be able to explain the options that are available to you based on not only the current law, but also changes that are in the legislative and judicial pipeline at any given time. The lawyer can then work with you to prepare your case and represent you in front of the administrative agency handling your application. The lawyer should be able to explain to the government agency why your case meets the requirements of the law and if problems arise, will use additional resources to help resolve the issue or prepare your case for an appeal. These are the minimum services any good lawyer should provide. If at any point you feel that your lawyer is not providing these basic provisions it’s time to reassess your lawyer and see where improvements can be made or get a new lawyer.

Step 3: Honesty is the Best Policy

This point can’t be stressed enough. Before you begin your search for an immigration lawyer it is critical that you accept that the best way for your lawyer to help you will mean that you will need to be completely honest in your dealings with that lawyer. The lawyer will need to have a clear, accurate picture of your situation. If you have worked without permission, neglected to file tax forms or been arrested the lawyer needs to know as it may affect your immigration options. Remember that your discussions with the lawyer and his/her staff are confidential. By withholding information not only are you doing yourself and your family a disservice but you are also preventing your lawyer from doing their job as best as possible in defending you. Honesty is always the absolute best policy.

Step 4: Gather All Your Documents

If there is one thing that is certain no matter what kind of immigration case you have it is that there will be alot of paperwork and documentation required. In almost every case, your lawyer will need to see just about everything in anyway, shape or form to your case. Gather all of your immigration documents, which include any documents relating to your education, financial statements and account information, tax information, rental and lease agreements, mortgage and home ownership documentation, accomplishments, marriages, divorces, birth of children, arrests or convictions, etc. Before you head out to your first consultation with a potential lawyer, be prepared and bring everything.

Challenges of Petitioning Spouses after Online Dating

Spouse petitions of Citizens have no numerical limits in immigration law, unlike other petitions. Unfortunately, fiancé and spouse petitions can also be subject to excessive oversight for couples who meet online, or couples who fail to proof the truthfulness of the relationship.

Spouse Petitions

Spouse Petitions and Online Dating

According to USA Today, more than a third of new marriages in the States started in the internet.  In 2005, according to congress, it was estimated that every year, from 8,000 to 12,000 individuals had found foreign spouses through international marriage brokers (Bill H.R. 3657).  Numbers have likely increased, but the process has not changed.

Our firm has efficiently petitioned foreign fiancés, fiancées and spouses ensuring that the family is eventually reunited in the U.S.

The petition process is evaluated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, their website also provides instructions on how to fill out the forms, and what evidence the government needs to adjudicate the case.  The most important point is that the foreign partner meets all requirements for admission, and that the relationship is bona-fide.

These are the main steps to bring a foreign spouse in the Consular Process:

  1. File a Petition with USCIS, providing all required evidence, checklists can be useful.
  2. Once the petition is approved, it is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC).
  3. NVC will contact both the applicant and petitioner with further instructions
  4. The NVC will assigns a case number to the petition.
  5. NVC will send additional bills (for processing and visa) to the couple.
  6. Once the processing fee is paid, the NVC will request supporting documentation.
  7. The NVC will ensure that the documentation is complete and the will send the petition to the embassy where the beneficiary (foreign spouse) will apply for a visa.
  8. Before the applicant’s scheduled interview appointment with a consular officer, both partners will receive a letter with the details of the interview and instructions for obtaining a medical examination.
  9. For the interview, the foreign spouse will have to provide originals of the Passport(s), birth certificate, divorce or death certificate of previous spouse(s), marriage certificate, visa photos and additional evidence of the marriage (pictures, bills, rings)

If the interview goes well, the foreign partner will receive an immigrant visa the same day.  Immigration attorneys are rarely required at these interviews.  Once the foreign partner enters the U.S. then he/or she will receive a Green Card (Permanent Residency Card) in the mail.  For spouses who’s partner is already in the U.S. the process is different, you can contact us if that is your case.

According to Sociologist Michael Rosenfeld of Stanford University in Stanford, couples who meet online are more likely to progress to marriage than couples who meet in other ways.  Hopefully the immigration process of online international couples will also run smoothly.  Some interesting facts are that at 26, Women have more online pursuers than men, and by 48, Men have twice as many online pursuers as Women. Beware that Men lie most about; Age, Height, and Income, while women lie most about: Weight, Physical Build, and Age.

Statistics are from Statisticbrain and more information about the research previously mentioned can be found in USAToday.

At the time of submitting the applications, any misrepresentation can make the whole process a truth nightmare, and test the strength of that new bond. Good Luck !