Most people are shocked at the cost of an immigration lawyer. While it can be expensive, certain people have needs that justify the expense. After all, a lawyer who specializes in immigration law can help you navigate a difficult situation. That may mean the difference between deportation and lawful permanent residence. For others, average immigration lawyer cost can leave you wondering if there are other options. Not everyone needs a lawyer. The good news is that there are a lot of different options.
Common Reasons to Use an Immigration Lawyer
Immigration attorneys have an important role and may be a critical skill set for some people’s situations. Depending on how complicated your case is affects the cost of an immigration lawyer. If any of the following apply to you, consider contacting an immigration lawyer.
Previous violations of immigration law are a good reason to utilize an immigration lawyer. Examples of immigration violations include entering without inspection, visa overstays, marriage fraud and misrepresentation on previous applications. Although immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can generally overcome a visa overstay without a lawyer, other relatives will need help. Depending on the nature of the violation, it can be extremely serious, resulting in removal (deportation) from the United States. Therefore, investing in the cost of an immigration lawyer is generally a good idea.
Certain types of criminal convictions can lead to the deportation of a non-citizen. This is true for permanent residents (green card holders) or other visa holders – regardless of how long you have lived in America. In fact, there may be serious immigration consequences – including deportation — even if you don’t have a conviction. This is because a non-citizen can be made deportable or inadmissible simply for engaging in certain kinds of conduct. Examples include drug trafficking and prostitution, but other criminal activity may be equally problematic.
The following chart shows the types of crimes that make a non-citizen deportable and/or inadmissible:
|Type of Criminal Offense||Immigration Consequences|
|Crimes of moral turpitude (CIMTs)||Deportable crime if:|
1) Conviction occurs within five years of admission to U.S. and sentence of at least one year may be imposed; or
2) Convicted of two or more CIMTs
Inadmissible crime unless only one conviction with a maximum sentence of one year or less and actual sentence of six months or less
|Aggravated felonies||Deportable crime|
|Controlled substances offenses||Deportable crime and inadmissible crime|
|Firearms offenses||Deportable crime|
|Domestic violence crimes||Deportable crime|
|Multiple convictions with a total sentence of at least five years||Inadmissible crime|
It is important to note that each state’s laws are different. To understand how a conviction in your state affects your immigration case, it is important to get analysis from an experienced immigration lawyer.
Other Complicated Situations
Sometimes you just have an unusual situation. A foreign diplomat adjusting status to permanent resident or a naturalization applicant with presumed disruption in the continuous residence requirement have more complicated cases. These circumstances are generally best addressed by a legal professional and justify the immigration lawyer cost.
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The truth is that not all lawyers are equal. Like any profession, there are good lawyers and not-so-good lawyers. Some attorneys practice in several areas. For example, a criminal defense or personal injury may do immigration law on the side for additional clients. Good immigration lawyers tend to be focused on immigration matters. Immigration law is complicated. Thus, the best lawyers generally have even more focus in a few limited areas of immigration law such as deportation defense or asylum applicants. Therefore, it’s important to do your research.
Typical Immigration Lawyer Cost
Attorneys may use different fee structures. Some may charge by the hour, and others based on a specific task (such as naturalization application). There may be an initial consultation and services provided after that meeting. Plus, the lawyer will want to be reimbursed if any expenses are incurred during the course of the engagement. While no one wants to pay for the most expensive attorney, finding the lowest cost attorney probably isn’t a great strategy either.
Initial Consultation Fee
Many lawyers will give you a free or low-cost initial consultation. The meeting may be in an office, but these days it is typically online (Skype, Zoom, etc.) or on the phone. An initial consultation may last 30 to 60 minutes. This gives you a chance to evaluate your chances of success and if you have confidence in the lawyer. For the lawyer, it’s an opportunity to get sell his or her services. It’s very common to find an initial consultation for $150 or less. However, some attorneys choose to charge their regular rates.
In very unextraordinary situations, you may be to resolve your issue in this first meeting. However, for most scenarios, the initial consultation is a discussion about what the lawyer can do to help.
Legal Services Fees
Once your lawyer determines the scope of work and how he or she can help, you will pay an additional fee for those services. You’ll need to pay an hourly fee or flat fee based on the arrangement you have. There’s a wide range of fees depending your lawyer’s experience and the market. It’s smart to ask around and call more than one attorney.
Here are some typical legal fees for common immigration services:
- Green Card Petition for Relative: $1,000 to $3,500
- Adjustment of Status Application: $2,000 to $5,000
- Citizenship/Naturalization Application: $500 to $2,500
- Green Card Renewal: $300 to $700
- Asylum Application: $1,000 to $7,000
- Deportation Defense: $4,000 to $12,000 (and higher if the case gets more complicated)
All of these estimates get more expensive if you have criminal offenses or immigration violations. Of course, the immigration lawyer costs listed above do not include the USCIS filing fees which vary by form. On an hourly basis, the cost of an immigration lawyer ranges from $150 to $300.
Pro Bono or Low-Cost Services
There are options for individuals with low or no income. Many licensed attorneys will volunteer their time to certain individuals that can’t afford to pay. You can find these attorneys through the American Immigration Lawyers Association or Catholic Legal Immigration Network. Another exceptional directory to find low-cost legal services is ImmigrationLawHelp.org.
RECOMMENDED: How to Find an Immigration Lawyer
Alternatives to a Traditional Immigration Law Firm
Not everyone needs a lawyer. Most people have straight-forward situations but want the extra confidence they’re doing everything correctly. Immigration paperwork can get overwhelming. Although there’s a lot of free information online, that information can be misleading or simply incorrect.
Online Immigration Service
CitizenPath is an exceptional alternative to using an immigration lawyer. CitizenPath is an affordable online immigration service created by lawyers. It’s like TurboTax® but for immigration. Our software makes USCIS forms easier and helps eliminate the denials and mistakes that can make the process longer than it needs to be. We even provide a 100% money-back guarantee that USCIS will approve your application or petition.
Using a service like CitizenPath can help ensure your case is processed quickly. In addition to properly preparing your form, our software generates customized filing instructions based on your answers. This way you get a custom list of supporting documents to submit for your situation. From adjustment of status to citizenship, there are several immigration packages available.
Online, On-demand Lawyer
JustAnswer.com may be a good solution for people with very simple legal issues or questions. The online service is direct portal to real immigration attorneys who can answer your question (typically through chat or phone). For example, a naturalization applicant who wants to know if past tax problems should be a concern can get a quick answer. Likewise, a permanent resident going to school abroad could get advice for their specific situation.
First, you will ask your question online. Next, JustAnswer matches with you with an immigration lawyer. Then, you will talk, text or chat until you get your question answered. You can try it below.
There are a variety of options to consider for immigration assistance. The cost of an immigration lawyer is just one. Determine your needs and what will make you most comfortable moving forward with your immigration situation.