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What Does an Immigration Attorney Do?

Applying for any of the various immigration processes can be a very complex situation that already has many laws put in place to avoid abuse.  It can require ample documentation ranging from, birth certificates, marriage licenses (if applicable), proof of financial support and medical examinations. There are also background questions that are asked on the various applications. Failing to give a full and accurate account of an applicant’s background information could result in delays or an outright denial of the application. An applicant will most likely need to consult with an immigration lawyer to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Consider hiring an immigration attorney if:

  • You are applying for naturalization to become a US Citizen
  • You need to file a petition for permanent resident status (green card)
  • You or a loved one is currently facing the possibility of deportation
  • You have recently married a foreign citizen and are looking to have the foreign citizen stay indefinitely
  • You need a work visa to legally work in the US
  • You simply do not understand any of the applications or processes

Defining United States Immigration Terms

Immigration in the United States can be a very complex process to undertake. It can involve a multitude of different procedures each depending on the purpose of the individual's stay in the US.  The main procedures most commonly at issue are the visa, green card, and citizenship procedures.

Visas are permission for a citizen of a foreign country to travel to the US. There are different types of visas that address employment situations and long-term stays.  Visa’s can be obtained in many ways. Some require a family member(like a spouse) to already have a valid visa, others require an employee sponsor that will employ the applicant during their stay in the US.

Green cards (the name given to the photo id a recipient receives) allow a foreign citizen to remain in the US indefinitely.  They provide permanent resident status upon the applicant, whereas Visas are a temporary permit to remain in the US. The green card process is complex and requires a strong understanding of the application process. There are many categories in which to file, leaving a multitude of possibilities. Things such as age, marital status, work skills, ethnic background and whether the applicant has a US citizen parent can all come into play.

Citizenship permanently confers all the rights and protections of the federal Constitution to the individual receiving it. The applicant may then enter and exit the country as they wish.  The naturalization process, as it is formally called, can be even more complex and time-consuming. It involves interviews, literacy, US history, and government tests as well as an extensive background check. These requirements are all in addition to first completing the green card process and a 3 to 5 year US residency requirement.

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help with Deportation Proceedings

The other half of the immigration process involves removal and deportation and is complicated as well as nerve-wrecking to those involved. Part of that complexity is the nature of the proceeding is quasi-criminal.  Deportation can occur when a non-citizen is present in the US and fails to fulfill the condition or requirements of obtaining a visa or breaks the law. The reasons range from fraudulent marriage in connection with a visa application to simplify failing to maintain a conditional temporary residence.

The deportation process begins with a notice served upon the alien that requires the alien to appear at a hearing. The alien is then given the opportunity to hire an attorney. A hearing is then held where the judge determines whether the facts alleged in the notice are accurate. The alien then has the ability to refute the information provided against him or her or provide evidence of legally accepted reasons to prevent the deportation. After a decision is made, if deportation is ordered, the alien can have the decision appealed by an immigration appeals panel. That appellate decision can then be appealed through federal courts all the way up to the supreme court.

Once deported, the alien may be subject to a ban from the United States that would also include criminal penalties for attempting to re-enter the country. An alien who is deported and then attempts to re-enter the country is guilty of a felony. Deported Aliens usually have to wait a range of between 5 and 20 years to apply for reentry.

How to choose a Qualified Immigration Lawyer

As mentioned before, immigration can be a very long and very complex process. It can be an especially difficult process to understand for applicants whose first language is not English. Though the applications are provided in most every language necessary, some of the concepts may not translate well to other languages and could be hard for an applicant to understand.Moreover, even fluent English speakers still have issues with the applications and turn to professionals for help. Immigration is usually a very serious situation that can be vital to the applicant. Unfortunately, because of the high stakes nature of the process, applicants can be a little more susceptible to fraud and dishonesty as there a many forces that have no issue in taking advantage of the situation.

Step 1: Research Your Options and Be Careful

There are caveats to all of the above situations mentioned above. It is those caveats that are the source of legal issues that necessitate the consultation of an experienced immigration attorney. The need for any attorney could arise during many of the procedures, in fact, an applicant may want to consult an attorney well before beginning the process.

An applicant should cross check any name they find with reliable sources that provide information about attorneys and authorized immigration service providers.  An applicant should first check uscis.gov which explains what licensing is necessary for attorneys to represent clients in immigration court.  Note that in the Unite States, non-attorneys such as “Notarios” or notary publics, or immigration consultants cannot legally give you immigration legal advice unless they are authorized service providers.

Step 2: Consider the Stakes Involved and Which Next Action is Right for You

An applicant should carefully consider whether they will want to use the services of an authorized provider or an attorney. There are many considerations that an applicant has to make. The decision will often come down to price and the stakes involved in the immigration issue. Can the applicant afford the attorney, does the price matter? Fees for attorney services can vary greatly amongst individual attorneys. If the price is a big consideration, an applicant will want to consider few attorneys before making a decision.

Questions always arise as to whether a more expensive attorney is better than a cheaper option. There are many factors to consider when evaluating this question. Attorney fees are normally based on the experience, results and proven capabilities of an attorney. If an attorney has practiced immigration law and charges a large sum, an assumption can be made that there have been many clients willing to pay more for the attorney services because of the attorney’s effectiveness. On the other hand, smaller law firms or solo practitioner may have just as much experience and success in handling immigration cases as a more expensive attorney.

The stakes involved or the seriousness of the need for the immigration application is also a factor an applicant has to consider. Is the applicant simply looking to renew a green card or is there a threat of deportation because of a misstatement in an application? The more there is at stake, the more important it may be to have a person who is well versed and trained in trial advocacy. A deportation hearing is very similar to a trial.

Step 3: Research Potential Lawyers You Could Hire then Schedule an Appointment with a Few

An applicant will want to gather as much information about the person assisting their application, whether it be an authorized service provider or an attorney.  It is important for an applicant to find out as much information as they can before any consultation. It is not very difficult to find information on an attorney. An applicant can search websites that provide attorney reviews that will allow an applicant to see what other clients have said about the attorney’s services.

Most attorneys have their own websites that contain information about their practice and experience. An applicant should study that information carefully and go to a consultation with questions. The applicant should take a careful look at the type of immigration cases the lawyer has handled. Do they simply do non-immigrant visas, do they handle deportation matters? Do they have someone there that can help a non-English speaker?

An immigration applicant should be fully aware of the complexity of the process and realize that they may need help in order to be successful.  An applicant should do as much research as possible and seek out the help of individual that are best equipped to assist them.

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