On many occasions, you can fill out the immigration form you need directly. It will depend on your level of English, your understanding of legal terms and the simplicity or complexity of your case. The law even allows migrants to represent themselves in immigration court. However, this option is not always recommended.
The truth is that hiring a good immigration lawyer is key in many cases to avoid unnecessary problems and delays, being its intervention especially important in cases that are resolved in immigration court. Statistics show that there is a great divergence between cases won with lawyers and the few won without the advice of a lawyer.
Keep in mind that in immigration matters, the United States government does not provide a lawyer in any case, even when you have to appear in court and you cannot pay one because you do not have money.
In these cases, they appear without legal help or try to make an effort and seek a lawyer, even one who acts pro bono, that is, without charging in specific cases. In the case of children detained at the border, it is recommended to inquire about which organizations that provide free legal help for these children.
When to choose a lawyer is highly recommended
But there will be situations in which the most advisable thing is to have the help of a professional to help you present all the necessary papers on time and to represent you, if necessary, before the immigration authorities or the court.
Also, keep in mind that immigration laws change frequently, and what worked for a family member or acquaintance a few years ago may no longer apply to your case, even if they are very similar.
And private matters such as a divorce or marriage or problems that seem unimportant such as a detention for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (IUDs) can have important migratory effects. For cases like these, it is best to have a good lawyer.
And, of course, for:
deportation cases, to decide how to fight it or to request a voluntary departure or postponement of deportation (also known as suspension or stay)
appear in court, how to change the status of a subpoena to appear in court
request for forgiveness and avoid errors in the waiver for illegal presence
conviction or accusation of having committed a felony
abuse of working visa conditions H
no respect for the minimum wage, including undocumented workers
domestic violence protection (VAWA)
for being a victim of violence,
divorce when the green card has been obtained by marriage, etc.
Even cases that may seem as simple as applying for permanent residence by marriage or papers for siblings can be - as can be seen in those links - long processes that require many papers.
Also, remember that in the United States only licensed attorneys and accredited representatives can provide legal advice. Notaries can't do it.
However, the experience of thousands of immigrants shows that few decisions such as having a bad lawyer can cause so many dislikes, loss of money, delays in paperwork and even serious problems with the Naturalization and Immigration Service (USCIS) English).
8 tips for hiring a good immigration lawyer
First, ask: ask for recommendations about lawyers among family members, friends, and co-workers. Everyone who has used the services of an immigration lawyer has a good or bad opinion.
Eliminate those who receive reasonable reviews and make a list of recommended ones. Also, check with a couple of organizations that defend immigrant rights as they can offer you valuable tips.
Second, demand: it is better than the lawyer who deals with your matter is devoted to immigration issues and is not a "specialist in everything." But make sure that it is not a mega specialist in a migration issue that has nothing to do with your case. For example, little can help you if your field of expertise is political asylum if all you need is to get a green card for a family member.
Third, check: check with your state bar association - Bar Association - to make sure that the lawyer you want to hire has all the relevant licenses and has not been penalized for unprofessional behavior. You can search for additional information in associations such as AILA, the association of immigration lawyers with more than 11,000 members.
It should be noted that the so-called immigration consultants and notaries do not act legally in all states and that the USCIS does not consider them persons with the capacity to represent you before the Administration or in Court, nor to provide immigration legal advice. However, they are authorized to fill out forms, but nothing else.
Fourth, compare: many lawyers will offer you the opportunity to have a free first appointment. Take the opportunity to interview a few. The lawyer should give you confidence. You should feel comfortable explaining your case well and asking all the questions you deem necessary. It should be clear what your rate is, how you work, what your experience is in and how and they will communicate during the case.
Fifth, choose the best one for your case: do not get carried away by the urge to choose a lawyer from your home country or one who speaks Spanish for those reasons. Simply choose the one you think is best to take your case.
If you do not feel comfortable speaking in English and the lawyer you like does not speak Spanish, ask for the help of an interpreter. Nowadays it is very common for immigration lawyer offices to have at least one person to communicate effectively with Spanish speakers.
Sixth, do not choose a lawyer just because you are the one who works the cheapest. Sometimes cheap is expensive, but don't choose the one that asks for the highest fees just for that reason.
Compare prices and the services, experience, and attention offered in return and choose what seems most reasonable. And be sure if you will be charged a flat rate or will be charged by the hour and, in the latter case, how the steps are counted. These are the average fees that lawyers can charge, depending on the type of procedure.
Seventh, always remember that you are the boss (employer): once you have a lawyer, trust your choice. But if you honestly believe that you have made a mistake with your choice and that you do not pay enough attention to your case or that you forget important notifications or that you do not respond to calls within a reasonable period of time, consider firing it and hiring another professional...
Eighth: it is your case, not that of your lawyer: you should have a minimum understanding of how things are, what roles are necessary, what deadlines must be met and what the consequences are if something is done wrong. You have to be especially careful with deadlines because if the consequences are not respected, they will fall on you.
Therefore, it is recommended that you keep up to date with a calendar and a small newspaper about the status of your proceedings before the immigration authorities. Keep a copy of all letters, paperwork, invoices and payment records. Remember that you are the person who will suffer or enjoy the consequences of USCIS decisions, not your lawyer.
How to get immigration advice without hiring a lawyer
Sometimes as much as you want, you don't have the money to hire a lawyer. But there are procedures that the best thing is always to have legal advice. Try to find a pro bono lawyer (who does not charge for a case) to take care of yours.
Another option is to consult with an immigrant support organization that can provide low-cost immigration legal services or can refer you to a moderate and trusted attorney.