How to Choose a US Immigration Lawyer?
First, Do you need a lawyer?
It takes years of immigration law-specific experience to become competent and capable in the practice of US immigration law. You will find that although it is possible to handle your own immigration matter, the time, energy, and resources to do so correctly are much more costly than working with an experienced US immigration lawyer. The US immigration process involves the filing of multiple Forms across several US government agencies. Even if you successfully file your application, mistakes in the filing can cause delays, complications, and be costly.
We provided a free initial case assessment and can suggest a possible path for your immigration matter for a simple flat fee. When retained as your lawyer, we prepare all Forms, collect all necessary supporting evidence, and provide the necessary legal advice and support for a successful immigration filing. In the event the government requires additional information, we are experienced with handling and overcoming such requests. Hiring an immigration lawyer gives you peace of mind knowing your matter is being handled competently.
Be aware of “immigration consultants”?
In most cases, immigration consultants are not authorized to practice immigration law and are practicing law without a license. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not recognize immigration consultants and will not allow them to file USICS Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative in any immigration matter. The following are listed as the only authorized immigration service providers by USCIS.
- Representatives accredited by the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) and working for DOJ-recognized organizations; and
- Attorneys in good standing who are not subject to any order restricting their ability to practice law.
Unlike Canadian Immigration Law where Immigration Consultants can assist you, ONLY licensed US Immigration Lawyers can legally help you with your US Immigration Law matters. Be cautious when choosing your representation and be sure to work ONLY with a licensed US Immigration Lawyer. Immigration consultants CANNOT legally practice US Immigration Law!
Top 10 things to look for in a US Immigration Lawyer?
With thousands of US Immigration Lawyers to choose from, the decision to hire a lawyer can be confusing. The following is our “Top 10 things to look for in a US Immigration Lawyer?”
- Practice limited to US Immigration Law – As with any area of the law, you should consider working with a lawyer with a background specific to your needs. This even applies to the practice of US Immigration Law. For example, we have very limited experience with immigrant waivers, immigration court, and refugee/asylee matters. On the other hand, we have extensive experience with family sponsorship, employment immigration matters, entry to Canada, and helping Canadians live and work in the USA.
- Years of Experience in US Immigration Law – Immigration law is a combination of the written and unwritten law. Any lawyer that dabbles in immigration has access to the written law the same as any individual does. The best immigration practitioners gained the knowledge and experience to become the best in their specific area of expertise by practicing the law and working in the field. An experienced immigration lawyer will rely on a combination of experience and written law. As immigration law is ever-changing it is important that your lawyer stays current on the law and is actively practicing in the field.
- Reviews and References – With technology, it is easy to verify the reputation of an immigration practitioner. Attorneys can be reviewed on many different online platforms. These reviews are often an indication of the experience and customer service level of the attorney. You can also verify with the local or state bar association to see if the attorney is subject to any bar complaints. A lack of online reviews can be an indication of a lack of experience. Bad reviews can be an indication of bad service and incompetence. A good reference from a friend or colleague is often one of the best ways to find an attorney. Most people will only recommend an attorney that they had a good experience working with. Check with friends, colleagues, and online to see what you can find before you hire an immigration lawyer.
- Support Staff – An immigration lawyer is only as efficient as their staff. A good lawyer will be supported by even better staff. It is unrealistic to think an attorney can handle all the day-to-day operations of a law firm as well as manage cases efficiently and competently. A firm that is adequately staffed will be able to provide top-notch service while handling your immigration matter completely. Our lawyers are supported by a staff of legal assistants and administrative staff. There is always an attorney and support staff available by phone or email to assist. Make sure the attorney you choose to work with has sufficient support staff and that they are not the only resource for you to rely on for your case.
- American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) member – The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the largest association for US immigration lawyers worldwide. AILA provides resources, training, and updates for immigration practitioners. AILA is a great resource to help immigration lawyers stay current with the law. Immigration lawyers that are members of AILA are more likely to be aware of changes in the law and provide current immigration advice.
- Customer Service – The number one complaint against attorneys is not poor legal work it is poor customer service. Failure to answer phone calls and to reply to emails. How responsive is the lawyer? You can tell a lot about an attorney from the initial contact with the firm or lawyer. This is often an indication of the level of service you should expect once the lawyer has been hired to handle your case. Do they answer the phone? How quickly do they respond to emails?
- Compatibility – Compatibility is very important when selecting an immigration lawyer. Will you work well together? This can oftentimes be tough to gauge. One of the best ways to determine compatibility is through the engagement process. Make sure you speak with the lawyer before you hire them. If you have follow-up questions, did they provide their email or will they speak with you again? You can tell a lot about an attorney and compatibility through a brief call or email interaction during the engagement process.
- Free Case Assessment – Does the attorney offer a free or paid initial assessment? We offer a free case assessment on all cases. We want to make sure that each immigration matter we handle is compatible with our experience and that we are able to obtain the best possible immigration outcome. Oftentimes this means a lot of back and forth with a potential client to determine if we can provide the assistance they are looking for. We do not charge legal fees until we determine compatibility and a possible path to achieve the desired immigration outcome.
- Fees – Attorneys will typically work on billable hours or flat fees. We offer simplified all-inclusive flat fees. You know what you will pay from the beginning, leaving the guesswork out. Our flat fees include basic office expenses, so clients never see extra charges for faxes, scans, long-distance phone calls, conference calls, parking, or single photocopies. In general, every immigration application we prepare includes A legal argument, a complete application/petition, case management, interview preparation, and decisions notification. Legal fees way outside of the market – either on the high or the low side – should be a source of concern.
- Location – Immigration law is federal law. This means that as long as an attorney is admitted to any State Bar, they can practice immigration law across the United States. Immigration law is also administrative law. Unless you have a case before an immigration judge, the case will be handled by mail and online filings. In-person meetings can be substituted by video and telephone meetings. In most cases, a licensed lawyer is able to handle your immigration matter no matter where they are located. We represent clients in all 50 United States and all over the world.