Written By Lisa Shea, Esq.
These days, there are many immigration lawyers and notarios promising immigrants that they will have an opportunity to get a green card without even thoroughly analyzing the facts of their case. They will simply say, “Yeah, no problem, I can get you a green card.”
Although it is wonderful to hear that you could qualify for a green card, if you actually qualify for it, it is not wonderful if someone tells you they can get you a green card just to take your money and for you to later learn that you don’t qualify.
Immigration law is extremely complex and changes all the time. In order for a lawyer to assess what kind of case you have, and the relief you could qualify for, a thorough consultation is needed. Many lawyers will give you a free 10 or 20-minute consultation, but that is not enough time for you to ask questions, give the lawyer enough facts about your case, or receive a thorough analysis of your situation before you spend thousands of dollars and risk your entire immigration case.
Making a decision about your immigration case is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It could dictate whether you are allowed to stay in the United States; whether you will be granted legal status; and whether you spend thousands of dollars for the good of your case or are just wasting your money.
WATCH FOR FRAUD:
Recently, I spoke with a client that had one of these free consults from a well-known social media attorney. When the client called the lawyer, he was directed to a foreign-qualified lawyer who did not know American law well. The person my client spoke with did not ask important questions that would have dramatically changed the legal advice from the client qualifying to do a waiver and consular processing to being permanently barred from immigration relief. Even without all the needed information, he announced that my client qualified and that the cost would be several thousand dollars. It was when my client sought a second opinion that he discovered that it was not so straightforward; his case might have some inadmissibility grounds that are more complicated than the lawyer explained to him, such as criminal records, smuggling, and multiple re-entries.
Another gimmick lawyers use is to advertise that they have an office in the city where you live but they really don’t. They pay for advertising to make it look like they are local, but they are actually in another city or even state. And, while it is not essential that your lawyer be local if that is what you are looking for, you have the right to know whether you will be able to have in-person contact with your lawyer. In other words, a lawyer should be clear on their website where they are located.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A CONSULTATION TO FIND A QUALITY LAWYER:
If you are looking for quality legal advice, you should expect to pay a reasonable fee for a consultation. Ask friends and family for a referral and check out the background of the lawyer. For example, you should find out if there are any bar complaints against the lawyer. During a paid consultation, the lawyer should thoroughly screen your immigration background and that of any family members who could impact your own immigration status. Take any immigration and criminal documents you have to the consultation. If you or your family member(s) have an A-number or alien number, make sure you take it with you. Any options for relief should be explained and you should be given an opportunity to ask questions about your future case. Ask the lawyer if he/she has experience in the kind of case you have and what the costs will be. Make sure your lawyer provides you with a written engagement agreement explaining the case and the fees. Your lawyer may need to do a freedom of information act (FOIA) request to get further information about your case before making a final plan of action.
Upon hiring the lawyer, stay in contact with him/her to ensure that you are meeting important deadlines and providing the information needed to do the case. Working with a lawyer on your immigration case is a team effort. The lawyer has obligations, and so do you. Your lawyer needs to use his/her best legal expertise to put together a thorough and timely case based on current law and vigorously advocate for your interests. You have an obligation to pay your lawyer and provide credible information, evidence, be on time for appointments, and keep the lawyer updated on important developments such as changes of address and phone number.
With a positive outlook and cooperation between you and your lawyer, you should have a successful experience. Although outcomes are not guaranteed, many cases can be won with diligent efforts.
If you are interested in knowing your immigration options, please call us at 703-335-2009 to schedule your consultation. We will be happy to help you achieve your American Dream!
Lisa Shea is a shareholder at Vanderpool, Frostick & Nishanian, P.C. She is leading the firm’s Immigration practice, as well as Immigration Chair for the Prince William County Bar Association. If you have additional questions or concerns contact Lisa Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 703-335-2009.
This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of legal counsel with respect to specific facts and situations. See disclaimer