Should I Hire an Attorney?

There are many reasons why people hire and don’t hire an attorney.  People consider hiring an attorney when they are uncertain of the necessary procedures to complete their legal matter.  Before making your decision, you should carefully evaluate your options and the risks associated with each option.   For their cases, immigration applicants usually consider the three options below.

Option 1: Handle the case yourself.  Applicants who decide to handle their own cases typically try to conduct their own research and join online forums whose members are applying for the same immigration benefit.  U.S. immigration laws are complex and inconsistent, such that there can be different procedures and outcomes for cases with similar circumstances.  Most applicants don’t understand all the issues in their case, particularly issues that can cause denials.  When seeking advice through online communities, applicants typically ask specific questions without providing all the necessary and relevant facts.  While you may think your case is similar or even identical to others, a single factor you consider as irrelevant can be the determining factor to your question or your case.  Online forums can be a source of information, but you should be cautious, as the information is often incomplete and/or inaccurate.  

Option 2:  Hire an immigration consultant.   There are many immigration consultants in the U.S. and overseas and they often hold themselves out as qualified representatives who can provide and perform legal work.  However, many U.S. immigration consultants engage in the unauthorized practice of law because they are not permitted to give legal advice.  For example, they are not allowed to advise you on how to answer questions on immigration forms or at interviews and not allowed to advise you on your immigration options.  Some of the non-legal assistance they are allowed to provide include translating your answers on immigration forms and obtaining and submitting documents on your behalf.  Many consultants genuinely want to help, but there are many who are looking to scam you.  Some scams include making guarantees that you will receive an immigration benefit, implying that they have special relations with immigration officials and convincing you to lie on an application and submit fraudulent documents that will strengthen your case.  U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has compiled a list of agencies you can contact to report immigration services scams in your state.  http://www.uscis.gov/avoid-scams/report-immigration-scams.

The U.S. does not have the authority to regulate foreign immigration consultants. Therefore, these consultants often disregard U.S. immigration laws and intentionally persuade applicants to submit fraudulent information and/or documents to increase their chances of visa approval.  Meanwhile, they do not inform applicants of the risks and consequences applicants must face when the applicant applies for subsequent immigration benefits and the U.S. immigration authorities uncover the fraud.  Also, often the foreign consultants do need keep records or unwilling to provide records of prior applications with or without fraudulent information. 

U.S. and foreign immigration consultants can be helpful in certain limited circumstances.  Applicants should not seek legal advice from them and should not blindly follow any advice to engage in any fraud or misrepresentation.  Applicants should always request copies of all completed applications and documents the consultants submit on their behalf. Ultimately, applicants are held responsible for all the information and documents submitted on their behalf.   

Option 3: Hire an attorney.    

Attorneys are expected to provide a certain level of professionalism and legal competence.  Given that these qualities varies by attorney, applicants should thoroughly research and compare the potential attorney pool.  First, applicants should minimally verify the attorney’s credentials by contacting the state bar in which the attorney is admitted in and verify that the attorney is licensed and in good standing.  Many state bars have websites and allow the public to view the status of their attorneys.  

Since immigration practice is based on federal law, applicants in the U.S. and overseas may seek the assistance of an attorney licensed in any of the 50 states.   While applicants have a huge selection of attorneys, they have the difficulty of narrowing the best candidates.  Applicants needs to first determine their specific needs (e.g. area of expertise, language support and any other special accommodations) and then narrow the list.  Most immigration cases takes months if not years to complete.  By directly speaking to the attorney, applicants should be able to gather certain information and make certain assessments.  

In the age of the internet, applicants must be cautious of client reviews, both positive and negative.  Regardless of positive or negative reviews, applicants should bear in mind that attorneys cannot guarantee results and prior success or failure does not guarantee the same future results. There are various factors that affect the outcome of each case.  Online reviews are relatively short and requesting to speak to some of the attorney’s prior clients may be an option.

While the three options each have risks, there is certain value to each option.  Some applicants may even utilize all three options.  Applicants usually choose one option over the other because of price.  While attorneys are usually the most expensive monetary option, solely utilizing the other options can be more expensive in the long-term if there are crucial mistakes and delays.  Regardless of which option(s), the choice should be made lightly. 

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| Phone: 732-387-3668

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