Immigration Myths & FAQ
Selecting an Immigration Lawyer FAQ
Q: Do I really need a lawyer?
A. Yes, you do. Immigration law is extremely complex, and the stakes are high -- it's your job, your child, your family, your freedom, your ability to live and work in the country of your choice. One error can delay your case by years or result in you being deported or detained. In such circumstances, it only makes sense to use the best possible advocate for you and your family – a lawyer.
Q. I can hire an immigration consultant or notary for a lot less money. Why not do that?
A. Immigration consultants and notaries are not lawyers. It is against the law for them to give you legal advice, and they are not allowed to represent you before the USCIS. These people are not licensed by any state or federal agency, and many of them do not have any special training. Although in some countries the word "natorio" means the same thing as "lawyer," that is not true in this country.
Although these non-lawyers will tell you that they can do everything as well as an experienced attorney, most of them simply do not have the kind of training and expertise that an attorney has. Immigration law is detailed and complex and constantly changing. It is also highly political. Each case has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. Only an experienced attorney has the knowledge to apply the law to your life.
Q. What will a lawyer do for me?
A. A good lawyer will sit down with you at an initial consultation [hotlink to consultation page], learn the facts of your particular situation, and give you an honest assessment of your case. The lawyer will give you an idea of what to expect, both in terms of outcomes and attorney fees/costs. If you hire the lawyer, he or she will help you gather necessary documents, complete and file the appropriate forms on time and in the right place, and make all necessary appearances on your behalf. The lawyer will explain to you all of your options and give you advice on any decisions that you must make. The lawyer will keep abreast of changes in the law and in the courts, and the lawyer will likely be familiar with the people who will be making the decisions on your case.
Q. How do I find a lawyer?
A. The first thing to do is to get the names of several lawyers so you have a group to choose from. If you know someone who had a successful immigration case, ask for that lawyer's name. Ask friends and family and coworkers for recommendations. Do searches on the Internet to find lawyers in your area.
Look for someone who has many years of experience, who is highly regarded by other lawyers (for example, a person who teaches about or speaks on immigration topics), who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and who has an active license to practice law. David Kolko, for example, has been practicing law for more than 22 years. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and he speaks on immigration issues for the Colorado Bar Association, for the University of Denver, and at various community and civic events. Jennifer Casey has been practicing immigration law for 7 years and is currently the Colorado Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association liaison committee chair to the local Immigration Courts.
Once you have a list of potential lawyers, contact each of them to arrange for a consultation. Some attorneys will charge you for this time, but others will not (for example, Kolko & Associates offers free initial consultations ). At the consultation, ask about how the lawyer will handle your case and what fees the lawyer will charge. Ask about how the lawyer will communicate with you. Get a feel for the lawyer and whether you will like working with that particular firm.
Q. What kind of fees will I have to pay a lawyer?
A. Most immigration lawyers' work on a flat fee basis, meaning you will pay a set amount for the regular job (for example, filing a green card application) of how much time the attorney spends on your case. In some matters, however, an attorney might bill you by the hour.
In addition to the fees, you will have to pay costs (for example, filing fees, mailing charges and photocopying charges).
Your lawyers should be able to give you a clear explanation of all fees and costs. Although you may find that most lawyers charge about the same amount, don't be surprised if there are some differences. And don't automatically go with the least expensive lawyer.
Q. My lawyer says that a paralegal will be doing some of that work on my case. Is that okay?
A. Yes. A paralegal that works under the supervision of a skilled and experienced attorney can do an excellent job. For example, at Kolko & Associates, the paralegals work with attorneys David Kolko and Jennifer Casey, and do all of their work under their close supervision. In turn, they bring important and valuable skills and experiences to the firm (for example, fluency in other languages). You can learn more about Kolko & Associates paralegals here.