When do you need an immigration attorney?

What can an immigration attorney do in your case? Many immigrants who come to the U.S. are not familiar with immigration laws and seek advice of friends, relatives, translators, or notaries. They often do not get correct information and, as a result, face serious problems in future when they adjust status, apply for citizenship, or petition for their relatives; they are placed in removal proceedings, their visas get denied. Click here to learn how to avoid scam and harmful immigration advice.

Many people think that to get an immigration benefit one should merely fill out a form, attach supporting documents, and pay the filing fees. This belief is erroneous. An immigration consultant should know immigration laws and immigration history of the client. The fact that your adviser has lived in the United States for many years, that he is fluent in English, or has gone through similar immigration processing does not guarantee that his advice will not harm you. Before going with an unlicensed practitioner, also known as “notario”, think of the troubles you can face in future.

An immigration lawyer is responsible for his actions. Wrong advice may cost attorney his license and reputation. An attorney can get sued for malpractice, an immigration case lost by an attorney can be reopened based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Even those who have been deported can benefit from having seen an attorney in the first place. An immigration lawyer follows the ever-changing laws, knows the basic errors that clients frequently make.

Often times a legal consultation does not cost a lot of money. Many lawyers charge about a hundred dollars for a consultation and some give free consultations. Immigration lawyers are aware that many clients have recently arrived into the United States, do not have much money and well-paying jobs. An immigration attorney can offer installment payments and even take some compelling cases pro bono (free of charge).

Certainly, not everyone needs to consult a lawyer. Filling out an application for a work permit, a visa, an application for a U.S. passport, or a refugee travel document can be done on one’s own. In the worst case scenario if you do something wrong, your documents will be returned, your case will be delayed or denied, and you may lose the filing fee. In some cases hiring a lawyer is not required but one should consult an attorney before mailing the completed applications.

Many advisers assure immigrants that they do not need an attorney at the interview for political asylum, for example.  They say that it is enough to bring a translator to the interview. That is not true. An attorney does not only take notes of everything that happens during the interview, but also asks the client questions at the end, helps the officer understand complex issues, makes a closing statement, monitors the quality of translation, can stop the interview or call the senior officer.

If you are served with a Notice to Appear, your case has been referred to the Immigration Court, you are applying for a green card or for citizenship, you should consult with an immigration attorney. One makes the choice whether to seek legal help or not. Some people handle their cases responsibly, others hope for good luck. The results generally correspond to the costs and efforts invested.

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