The U.S. immigration system can be overwhelming. USCIS forms can often be confusing to understand even for native-born Americans.
If you’ve decided that you need an immigration lawyer, the matter is also important enough to find a good immigration lawyer. Regardless if you’re working with a lawyer in private practice or non-profit, it’s important to find an immigration lawyer that is experienced and can help you navigate the complexity of your case.
Know When to Find an Immigration Lawyer
It is important to recognize when it’s time to get professional help from an immigration attorney. If you’ve already run into a situation that requires expert assistance or you have a complicated case, it is probably time to find an immigration lawyer. If you have a history which includes immigration violations (e.g. overstayed visa, ordered removed, etc.) or an arrest record, reach out to an immigration lawyer before requesting immigration benefits. If any of the following examples apply to you, it’s wise to consult with an immigration lawyer before filing any USCIS forms:
- You entered the U.S. without inspection.
- You failed the leave the U.S. before a visa expired.
- You were refused entry at a port of entry.
- You were apprehended by Customs and Border Protection.
- You were ever in exclusion, deportation, or removal proceedings.
- You signed a stipulated removal order.
- You have ever been charged with a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense.
Even if the problem occured many years ago, it is important that you understand how it affects your situation today. An immigration lawyer can analyze your situation and explain it to you.
Understanding the Differences in Legal Representation
Non-profit agencies that provide BIA accredited legal services can provide services at a low cost or sometimes at no cost. They are a great resource and help many people each year. However agencies like these can rarely meet all of the demand, resulting in long wait times. Non-profit agencies may also have limited scope or do not provide the expertise in all areas of immigration law. When searching for low-cost immigration services, make sure the organization that you choose can address your specific situation. To find low-cost immigration services, visit www.ImmigrationLawHelp.org.
A private immigration attorney can generally address a broader range of cases than non-profits with specialization. You may also find a private attorney to be more accessible and willing to spend time answering all of your questions. It is important that you research an immigration attorney’s background before hiring him/her. To search for a private immigration lawyer near you, visit www.ailalawyer.org.
4 Tips to Find an Immigration Lawyer
Get References and Recommendations
Ask family and friends if they know a good immigration attorney. Advocate groups or other community organizations that specialize in certain areas (e.g. DACA) may also have ties with local attorneys they could recommend. CitizenPath provides a list of organizations and websites that can refer an attorney.
Questions to ask:
Interview Your Favorites
This is an opportunity for you to ask questions and determine if you are comfortable with the lawyer’s style. It is also important to make sure your needs match the lawyer’s expertise. Call each attorney’s office and explain your need. Ask for an opportunity to meet the attorney so that you can ask questions and make a decision.
Questions to ask:
Lawyers have different fee schedules with different expectations of how costs are reimbursed. Make sure you understand if your lawyer charges a flat fee or by the hour.
Questions to ask:
Do a quick background check on the attorney to make sure he/she is licensed and in good standing, or if he/she has ever been subject to disciplinary action. There is no cost. Most state bars allow you to look up the attorney by name or bar number online.