Tips to Choosing an Immigration Lawyer
Build a Relationship with your Attorney
Your visa is the first step to being able to legally live in the United States. It is also the first, but, more likely, not the last time you’re dealing with USCIS office.
Hire a Lawyer Who Speaks Your Language
Pick a lawyer who speaks your language fluently. This greatly streamlines the process and ensures that you and your lawyer are always on the same page in terms of understood legal nuances. The lawyer would also be able to make sure that the certified translations of your documents from your native tongue to English are accurate.
Upload the Process to the Cloud
Adopt a cloud file storage for the documents you need to submit with your case file. Sign the documents electronically and employ a project management system to manage the process such as Asana and Google Drive.
Immigration law firms typically charge by the hour. However, some law firms charge fixed fees for the standard preparing and filing of your case. Opt always to pay a fixed fee for a law firm’s services or else require that they give you an estimation of how much time it will take to file your case so that you know how much their services will cost you in terms of time and money.
Ask for References
Once you are referred to a good lawyer, arrange to have a consultation wherein the lawyer gives his or her best recommendations for visa options. Be sure to ask for references. A good immigration lawyer should suffer from no shortage of happy former clients ready and willing to recommend the law firm’s services.
Tips to Choosing an Excellent Immigration Lawyer
Get a Referral
Often word-of-mouth is the best way to choose an immigration attorney. Your network of family, friends or colleagues may know other individuals who have dealt with immigration attorneys in order to acquire a green card residency visa or other benefit. You can learn firsthand about the kind of experience the individual had when working with the immigration attorney.
Asking for References
After you’ve been referred to a good lawyer, schedule a consultation where the lawyer strategizes his/her plan of action for your individual situation. Be sure to ask for references. A good immigration lawyer should have great online reviews (Google, Yelp, Avvo) and an abundant list of happy former clients willing to recommend the firm’s services. Other possible resources are researching them via the local bar association, the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and a member in good standing of the Better Business Bureau.
Consider More than Just Price
Don’t blindly choose an immigration lawyer based on pricing. Like many things in life, you get what you pay for. There are plenty of sub-par immigration attorneys out there offering reduced pricing versus the competition. Some may be handling too many cases at once and don’t have a proper team to dedicate quality time and personalized service to your case. Others may not have the proper experience in complicated areas of immigration law.
Hiring a Lawyer Who Speaks Your Language
Choose a lawyer (and a firm) which speaks your language fluently. This improves communication throughout the process and ensures that you and your lawyer are understanding complicated legal nuances.
Build a Relationship with your Attorney
A visa is your first step in being able to legally reside in the United States. It may be the first, but likely not the last, time you’re communicating with the USCIS.
Tips to Choosing an Immigration Lawyer
Use the price as guidance: is it a good indicator?
We may be tempted to choose the lowest price.
After all, who wants to pay more?
However, and as in many other things in life, you get just what you pay for.
Nowadays, there are hundreds of immigration attorneys offering their services at a much lower price than their competitors.
Ask friends/other expats
There is no doubt that those who can give you a more true and real opinion about the service offered by a particular company are the people closest to you.
It is also very likely that a friend or family member has already moved to the country where you want to start your new life. This creates a great opportunity to ask for references when choosing a lawyer.
Lawyer or administrative agent, what is better?
Another frequent question is whether it is better to hire an administrative agent (called “gestor” in Spain) or a lawyer to manage the application procedure.
Although an administrative agent can process your visa application in the same way as a lawyer, it may not be the recommended option.
Check the reputation of the company (read reviews)
Years ago, the only way we had to verify if a company was reliable or not was to ask friends or acquaintances about their experiences with that business.
However, this presented many limitations. First of all, it was unlikely to meet someone who had had contact with that particular company. Second, perhaps one particular case was not significant enough to draw conclusions.
Verify that they usually help people from your same country
It is absolutely true that residence permits for non-European citizens are the same for everyone. And it is also true that the requirements to obtain each of them are set by the immigration law in general and do not depend on the applicant.
However, it is also true that there may be certain discrepancies regarding the requirements requested by each Spanish consulate.
tips on choosing the right immigration attorney
Don’t bargain hunt
Choosing blindly might result in you working with mediocre or terrible immigration attorneys. Some might be handling too many cases at the same time, thus making them unable to dedicate enough time for each client. Some don’t have enough experience in certain areas of immigration law. Some are just trying to charge the heck of their clients.
Get a referral from another founder
First of all, use your own network and try to find other founders who dealt with attorneys and obtained a long-term visa. The old fashion advice remains true: Word-of-mouth advertisement is powerful.
Ask for references
Once you get a referral (or two) to a good attorney, have initial consultation. During the consultation, a good attorney will suggest visa options you should consider.
Negotiate fixed fees ahead of time
Immigration attorneys, just like any other attorneys, charge for their time. However, some attorneys have fixed set of fees for standard procedures, such as preparing and filing your case, and responding to requests for evidence.
Run the process in the cloud
Usually lawyers are very conservative when it comes to adopting new technologies. For security reasons, they stay away from cloud file storages.
How to Find an Excellent Immigration Lawyer
Avoid Lawyers Who Approach You at USCIS or Other Immigration Offices
A few “high-volume, low value” immigration attorneys prowl the hallways of immigration offices attempting to solicit business. This is not considered ethical behavior by the legal bar. Besides, any good immigration attorney is probably going to be too busy practicing immigration law and working for their clients to spend their time rounding up new clients this way.
Make Sure You’re Dealing With a Real Lawyer, Not a “Visa Consultant,” “Notario,” or “Petition Preparer”
Would you ask a neighbor to replace your heart valve, or your doctor to fill out your tax forms? Hopefully not. For the same reasons, only an actual, practicing lawyer should be trusted to handle your immigration matters. Unfortunately, many non-lawyers; even some well-meaning ones, who don’t recognize how complex this area of law really is; claim to be capable of assisting foreigners who need help with the immigration process. In many cases, they offer little value other than a typing service. In the worst cases, they may literally take your money and run, or fill out your forms in wrong and dangerous ways without telling you the meaning of what they’re doing.
Research the Lawyer
You can probably find out a lot about your lawyer online: whether he or she is listed as a member of a state bar association (a requirement) and of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association or AILA (a professional organization that most of the best attorneys join); whether he or she gets good reviews on websites like Martindale; whether the lawyer has written professional articles for publication; and so on.
Run From Lawyers Who Give Unethical Advice or Make Illegal Offers
Be careful of any immigration attorney who suggests that you do something fishy: perhaps lie on an application or to a USCIS officer, give the attorney extra money with which to bribe an immigration authority, or buy a fake green card from him or her.
Be Skeptical of Unrealistic Promises
Not even the best attorneys can guarantee success. Ultimately, the outcome of you case is up to an immigration judge, the Department of Homeland Defense and/or USCIS. Any attorney claiming he or she has a 100% success rate and guaranteeing you a particular outcome may need to be more closely evaluated.