Are you hunting for the right immigration lawyer to help you with your case? Have you been surveying your options, but are not sure where to even start?
Finding the right immigration lawyer for your particular legal situation is crucial to ensuring that your case receives the attention it deserves. If you are filing a petition for a green card or visa, working to stop your deportation, or are dealing with a similar immigration matter, you need to know what to look for in an immigration lawyer so you can choose one with your best interests in mind.
What Is Immigration Law?
In laymen’s terms, immigration law is the body of laws, statutes, and other regulatory measures determining who can and cannot enter and reside in the country. Immigration is not to be confused with naturalization. Immigration determines who can enter and leave a country while naturalization governs who can become a citizen. The two areas are connected to be sure, with most attorneys specializing in immigration law also handling cases related to naturalization.
Origin of Immigration Law
In the U.S., for instance, immigration policies and laws are governed by the President and interpreted by the Federal Court System. International treatises also govern immigration procedures, such as those put forth by the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This body of laws has existed since 1976, allowing individuals who are citizens and live legally in a country to travel abroad without incident. This means they can travel and live outside of their home country if desired, and their country of origination must take these citizens back upon their return.
What Immigration Law Encompasses
Lawyers practicing immigration law are experts on which rules individuals are required to follow if they want to enter and exit the U.S. legally. Immigration law covers customs inspections at points of entry like border security and airports. Immigration laws also dictate what documentation is needed to enter and exit the country, such as visas and passports.
This body of laws gives customs officials the authority to check any possessions you bring into the country. Customs officials even retain the right to hold you for questioning if they deem it necessary upon your arrival into the U.S. Choosing an immigration lawyer is of the utmost importance if you are trying to navigate these laws for your green card, visa, or any other immigration matter.
In fact, around 19 percent of immigrants in the entire world reside in the U.S. That is a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that the nearly 50 million immigrants who live in the country make up about 14 percent of the entire population of the U.S. in total. The country’s immigration laws are constantly developing and changing, so hiring a lawyer who is an expert in these areas is key to ensuring your case is handled appropriately.
If you are looking to immigrate to the U.S., there are a few different routes available to you. To be in the country legally, you need to receive official sanction to enter the U.S. The document that provides you official sanction is known as a visa. There are different visas based on the duration and purpose of your stay. Depending on your country of origin, if you are coming for a short visit unrelated to business, you may not require a visa at all. If you need a visa, the most common options to choose from are family and employment visas.
With a family visa, a U.S. citizen may submit a petition to allow other family members to immigrate to the country. There are some strict parameters, but a citizen can usually request to bring in their parents, siblings, spouse, and children. A permanent resident living in the U.S. legally may also petition for their spouse and children to come into the country.
There are many forms required to submit a petition for a family visa, which is why it is so important to make sure you receive guidance from a licensed immigration attorney. Employment visas can be divided into different subcategories, including those for skilled workers, priority workers, and investors. Again, navigating this complex maze of documentation and requirements is best done with legal counsel.
The Role of an Immigration Lawyer
An immigration lawyer aids clients in pinpointing the right visa for their situation that will allow them to enter the U.S. legally. Lawyers practicing in this area of law may also aid and advise regarding deportation proceedings, helping to make or break the client's case.
An immigration lawyer may work for private firms, in public interest settings, or on behalf of the government. For attorneys who work for private law firms, you must pay a fee for representation. There are non-profit organizations that assist individuals with immigration matters. Non-profits typically hire lawyers to assist clients with navigating the complex paperwork and process of immigration. Lawyers who practice immigration law for the government enforce these laws, such as analyzing applications, litigating in court, or helping to create new immigration statutes and procedures.
If a client can potentially apply for different visas, it is the job of the immigration lawyer to help them select the best option. Some immigration attorneys work with employers who are trying to bring one of their foreign employees into the U.S.
After aiding their client in choosing the right visa, the lawyer will help the individual to process their visa application and give them insight into any factors that could cause their denial. If you are applying for a visa, the attorney may work with you to make sure you are adequately prepared for your visa interview and help you gather the documentation required to attest to your character and fitness recommendations.
If you are facing deportation, an immigration lawyer can serve as your defense and speak on your behalf in court to the immigration law judge presiding over the proceeding. Your entire case can depend upon you having a skilled, knowledgeable lawyer at your side adept at offering sound advice and engaging in litigation.
5 Tips to Hire a Good Immigration Lawyer
1. Consider the Costs
Our first tip for you to consider when hiring a good immigration lawyer is the costs involved. You should be ready to pay a considerable fee for quality legal services, but they should still come within the realm of reason. Attorneys spend a long time in school and training for the profession, so their knowledge and expertise comes at a cost. They will work very hard on your behalf and have every right to charge associated fees.
In fact, if their fees are too low you should question the credentials of the immigration lawyer you are considering. Lower than average attorney’s fees could be a sign of inexperience or under-qualification. Alternatively, if the attorney’s fees are above the realm of normal fees, you might need to examine what the lawyer’s motives are.
You should plan on paying around $100 to $350 per hour for the services of an immigration attorney. Sometimes, you might get your first consultation free or have it discounted on your bill down the line. If you seek free legal representation through a non-profit organization, you will get qualified representation but the wait might be too long for your case.
2. Be Sure to Ask Questions
It is perfectly acceptable to ask plenty of questions when hiring an immigration lawyer. There are key questions you should always get answered before making your final decision. Ask how long they have been a licensed attorney practicing law, what their experience is with immigration law, and if they are licensed to practice in your particular state.
You should also inquire whether they are members and associated with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, what the case will involve, and the potential outcomes expected. Find out what will be required on your end throughout the duration of the case, who will handle your case, and the means of communication that will be used. Definitely ask about the projected total costs and how much you will need to pay throughout the case. Prior to signing an attorney-client agreement, see if you can get references from past clients. This should never be an issue as a lawyer with a successful case history will have plenty of pleased clients.
3. Verify Credentials
Just to be safe, always take the time to verify the credentials of any immigration lawyer before you hire them. Once they give you the information requested, go on the bar website for their state or region and make sure everything is in order.
Call the references the immigration lawyer provided you with so you can get a clear idea of the process their cases followed, how their cases were managed, and if they were pleased with the outcome.
4. Avoid Unsavory Characters
While this may seem like an obvious tip for choosing an immigration lawyer, avoid unsavory characters. There are many qualified and reputable legal professionals in the field, but some unethical types worm their way in.
For instance, if you speak with an immigration lawyer who advises you to do something wrong or illegal like put inaccurate information on an application, bend the truth with an immigration official, pay money for a bribe, or anything else ethically questionable, run far and fast. If you want your case to go smoothly, the last thing you need is to get in trouble with the law.
Make sure you only hire a licensed, practicing immigration lawyer. No matter what you hear, a notary or other legal professional cannot handle the case for you. There are plenty of legal professionals who are not actual practicing lawyers, purporting to have the prowess to navigate and advise on immigration matters. Not only is this not the case, but you could end up losing money, having your forms filled out incorrectly, or running into legal trouble down the line.
5. Weigh Your Options
Our final tip for choosing a top-notch immigration lawyer is to weigh your options. After doing a careful review with the tips noted above, look over your shortlist of attorneys to see which one fits best with your situation.
By talking with different attorneys and getting an idea of how they approach and handle cases, you can see whether you will work well together. You can also determine which are more qualified to handle your case than others.
Choosing an immigration lawyer who is qualified and knowledge to help you reach a successful conclusion to your case is a process. It takes time and careful consideration regarding your options.
Make sure you consider the costs involved, pose plenty of questions to any lawyers you meet with, verify their credentials, and stay away from anyone that shows a hint of unethical behavior. Finally, weigh your options and decide which immigration lawyer is the right fit for your case.