What Does An Immigration Lawyer Do?
Why Should I Consider Hiring an Attorney?
If you’re undecided about hiring an immigration lawyer to assist with your case, you’re probably wondering what they do. Can you complete all of the paperwork yourself, or would you benefit from the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney throughout the process?
What an immigration lawyer does will depend on what you need. There are some cases where using an immigration lawyer is the best option. Many people feel more secure navigating the immigration process with an experienced attorney by their side. Here’s what an immigration lawyer can do for you.
What Is an Immigration Lawyer?
An immigration lawyer is a trained professional who can represent American citizens, foreign-born individuals applying for visas, corporations, or the government in matters of immigration law.
Immigration lawyers use their knowledge of the law to advocate for their clients and make sure that everyone is treated equally under the law. They will help their clients review and consider immigration options available to them. They can also help clients complete necessary paperwork and prepare documents that immigration agencies like USCIS or NVC request.
If someone is treated unfairly under the law, an immigration attorney can help to appeal a decision or defend their client in the event of a denial, deportation, or the process of removal proceedings.
How Do You Become an Immigration Lawyer?
Lawyers are some of the most highly-educated professionals in America. To become an immigration lawyer, one must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree from a fully accredited university followed by law school.
Although there is no requirement for the type of bachelor’s degree someone must obtain, many lawyers choose to get their degrees in paralegal studies, political science or international affairs, or areas related to business or finance. The skills they learn can help to further their career.
After they obtain their bachelor’s degree, they’ll attend law school for another three years to obtain a juris doctor (JD) degree. They will then pass the bar exam, which officially recognizes someone’s qualification and competence to practice law in the United States. They will then seek admission to practice law in a state(s).
After they’ve passed the bar exam, many will work with a law firm to practice their area of focus. If someone is passionate about immigration, they may choose to work with an immigration law firm and take additional supplemental educational courses about immigration law.
After assisting more experienced immigration attorneys for several years, they will obtain enough experience practicing immigration law to be able to handle cases independently.
This is a lengthy process. It takes a minimum of seven years of formal education and several years of training. If someone goes through all the effort to complete this process, it shows their passion and dedication to their field.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for My Immigration Case?
You don’t always need an immigration lawyer for your immigration case, but there are circumstances where it’s very useful to have the assistance of a lawyer. If you’re coming to the United States on a work-related visa, your employer will likely hire a lawyer to help with the case. You may not need to hire your own lawyer.
A lawyer is necessary if you’re coming to the United States on an investment-based visa. You have a lot of paperwork to complete. Your visa involves meeting a specific set of criteria and having a plan to invest a substantial amount of money into businesses in the United States. Whenever there are major financial assets involved, you should use a lawyer.
Some people choose to use lawyers for marriage- or fiancé-related visas if they have concerns that their case may be denied. A lawyer can review the paperwork and help you identify any potential concerns. For example, if your fiance or spouse has overstayed a visa in the past, it can be very difficult to get them approved for a new visa without a lawyer’s help.
Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for My Appeal or Removal Proceedings?
Appeals and removal proceedings are two situations where you cannot afford to go without the assistance of an immigration lawyer. Appealing a USCIS denial is possible, but it’s incredibly difficult. You’ll have the best chance when you have an experienced immigration lawyer by your side.
Removal proceedings are one of the most difficult immigration law situations someone can encounter. They can sometimes go on for years. Removal proceedings can be initiated for a variety of reasons, including denial of an application by USCIS, conviction for a crime, use of fraudulent documents, etc.
The Department of Homeland Security will tell the immigration judge why they believe you should be removed from the United States. You are given a chance to challenge the reasons why the Department of Homeland Security wants to remove you and apply for relief from removal.
If you want a fighting chance, you need a detail-oriented attorney who understands how removal proceedings work. An immigration attorney has the best chance at explaining to a judge why you didn’t violate the law, misrepresent information, or abandon your permanent resident status. They can also help you apply for appropriate relief from removal.
How Do You Choose the Right Immigration Lawyer?
If you’ve decided to work with an immigration lawyer, choosing a lawyer who will be the right fit for your situation is important. All lawyers must be fully certified to practice law in the United States, but that’s the bare minimum. You need a knowledgeable, detail-oriented, and compassionate lawyer to help you along the way.
Ask Your Friends and Relatives
If you have friends or family members who have worked with an immigration attorney, they’re the best people to turn to. They’ll be honest with you about the experience they had, and they’re less likely to refer you to a lawyer they weren’t satisfied with.
You can also ask your community for advice or a referral. There are immigrant communities all over the United States, and the internet is an easy way to bring people together. Get involved in your community’s social media group. Ask your neighbors or local cultural associations for recommendations.
Explore Their Credentials
Lawyers will display their educational credentials, additional certifications, awards, accolades, and forms of special recognition in their office. Ask your lawyer where they went to school, when they went to school, and what they’ve done to continue their legal education outside of school. A passionate lawyer will never stop learning.
Consider Their Experience
Anyone who works as an immigration lawyer can assist clients with all immigration-related matters, but some lawyers have a special area of focus. A lawyer focused on helping people obtain marriage- or family-related visas won’t have the same experience as a lawyer primarily focusing on work-related visas.
You should ask your lawyer what types of cases they normally take during your initial consultation. Choose a lawyer who considers immigration cases like yours their area of focus.
Look for Bilingual Legal Assistance When Necessary
If you speak two languages or if you’re applying on behalf of a family member who doesn’t speak English, it helps to have a lawyer who can effectively communicate in that language. Not all lawyers are bilingual, but many will hire bilingual secretaries, staff, or translators to work for their law practice.
When everyone is speaking the same language, it’s much easier to communicate. You or your loved one may have questions that would be difficult to ask or answer in a language they don’t speak fluently. Choose a lawyer who can accommodate you.
Ask How You’ll Complete Documents
Many people who work with an immigration attorney are not currently located in the United States. You need to be able to review, sign, and share important documents. How will you do that when there are thousands of miles between you and your lawyer?
Many immigration attorneys use secure online portals to upload documents and request electronic signatures. This solves the problem of distance, but it doesn’t always solve the security concern. Ask your lawyer what steps they take to keep your information secure when it’s electronically transmitted.
Ask About Fees
Working with an experienced immigration attorney can be expensive but usually worth the expense. It can be difficult to navigate the immigration process in the United States, and a lawyer can help improve your approval chances. Consider the value of what you’re spending.
In addition to how much you’ll pay your immigration lawyer, you should consider how you’ll be paying them. This is especially important if you’re currently located overseas or applying for someone who lives overseas to help you split the costs of immigration. It’s much easier to work with a law firm that uses a secure online payment portal, allowing you to make payments from anywhere.
Consider Comfort and Communication
How comfortable do you feel working with an immigration attorney? Do you feel like they will be able to regularly communicate with you about important matters? Will it be easy for you to get a hold of them when you have a pressing question or when USCIS contacts you about your case?
Lawyers are busy people. They aren’t available around the clock to answer every question you have, but they should have a reliable way for you to communicate with them during their office hours. They should also have someone available for you to speak with or leave a message with if they’re in a meeting or working with another client.
How Do You Hire an Immigration Lawyer?
Once you understand which traits you’re looking for in an immigration lawyer, you can begin the process of hiring the right lawyer for your needs.
Request a Consultation
The first step you need to take is to request a consultation with a lawyer. A consultation will allow you to explain the details of your case and ask all your questions. A great lawyer will be patient with you and clearly explain the answers.
If a lawyer attempts to rush you through the process or uses complicated language you don’t understand, that’s a sign that a lawyer may not be the right fit for you. You should never feel like your lawyer is attempting to cut you out of the process or work without your involvement.
If you feel like you walk away from a consultation with a clear expectation of how your case should work and what it will be like to work with a lawyer, that’s a sign that you may have found the right lawyer for you.
Have Multiple Consultations With Different Lawyers
You don’t need to hire the first lawyer you meet. You’re free to have consultations with as many lawyers as you’d like. Take notes during your consultations to help you narrow down your selections as you move through the process.
Begin the Process When You’re Ready
When you have answers to all of your questions, and you’ve completed the consultation process, you can choose the lawyer you’d like to work with.
When you make a decision to work with a lawyer, they’ll tell you what you need to do to begin the process. This usually involves signing contracts, paying fees, and providing your lawyer with important documents they need to begin working on your case.
In Conclusion: An Immigration Lawyer Does a Lot for Their Clients
Immigration lawyers are the best advocates for hopeful immigrants and families in the United States. It’s important to choose a lawyer to provide you with the help you need to move forward with your immigration case.
The detail-oriented team at Cohen, Tucker & Ades has over 40 years of experience assisting immigrants in the United States with a wide variety of immigration issues. You can contact us for a consultation if you’d like to begin the process of finding the right immigration lawyer for you.