Hiring an immigration lawyer can sometimes make the difference between the U.S. government approving an application for immigration-related benefits or denying it. While there are many good attorneys out there, unfortunately there are also some lawyers (and some people who are only pretending to be lawyers) that can actually do more harm than good.
When making the decision to hire an immigration lawyer, the potential client should keep the following considerations in mind:
Consideration #1 – Legal Fees
Most people have a household budget that must be kept in mind when deciding whether (or which) immigration lawyer to hire. Some attorneys charge clients by the hour and some attorneys charge a flat rate for services. It is important to understand exactly what the fee structure will be and exactly what services that fee structure will cover. For example, if a U.S. citizen wants to sponsor the citizen’s mother and father for green cards, one attorney may charge a flat rate for both applications while a different attorney may charge per application.
Since the U.S. government also collects its own fees for immigration applications, it is important to calculate the cost of the immigration attorney in order to have a better idea of the total cost of the applications.
Consideration #2 – Expected Immigration Application Timeframes
As a potential client, you have the right to know when you can reasonably expect your immigration applications to be filed with the U.S. government. The prospective attorney should be able to give you a timeframe by when your applications will be filed once you provide the necessary materials. For example, if you are filing a green card application and you give the needed documents to your attorney on Monday, the attorney should likely be able to file your application that same week or the next week – the attorney should not be waiting to file for months and months.
Because many immigration-related benefits are time-sensitive, it is important to feel confident that your attorney will send your applications within in a reasonably timeframe.
Consideration #3 – Client Contact
This is a big one. We all know that everyone is busy, but client contact is very important – especially for foreign nationals filing immigration applications because the outcome of those applications can affect the nationals’ entire lives. If the attorney you are speaking with cannot assure you that they will be reasonably available to explain the status of your case, or provide you with case status updates as they occur, it may be time to look for a different attorney.
Consideration #4 – Is the Attorney Familiar with My Case?
Many people think that all immigration lawyers know everything there is to know about immigration law. This is not typically the case (and it is nearly impossible)! In fact, most immigration law offices focus their practice on specific areas of immigration law such as family-based immigration, employment-based immigration, asylum cases, etc.
When discussing your case with an attorney, you want to feel comfortable that the attorney has handled your type of case before, or has knowledge about the relevant issues related to your application.
Consideration #5 – Has the Attorney Ever Been Disciplined by the State Bar?
If you are interested in working with an immigration attorney, conduct a background check to see if the attorney has ever been officially disciplined by the state bar. Typically state bars only officially punish attorneys if they committed a truly egregious act that really jeopardized their clients’ interests. If this is case, continue looking for a different attorney.