An immigration lawyer is someone who can provide counsel about legal rights or responsibilities associated with immigration, who can try to prevent someone from being deported to their home country, or represent their client in court where immigration matters are concerned.
What Does an Immigration Attorney Do?
An immigration lawyer focuses on immigration law, which handles concerns of foreign workers who need visas to work legally in the United States, individuals who are seeking permanent residence in the United States or are having legal issues with their legal status, immigrants who are trying to get citizenship or those who are facing government deportation and need help collecting the necessary documents. They also help those who want to become citizens and make sure they follow all the rules.
When to Hire a Immigration Lawyer?
There are many situations where you might consider hiring an immigration lawyer or at the very least getting a consultation. You should consult with an attorney who specializes in immigration law under the following circumstances:
You don't know whether you're eligible for a green card or an immigration benefit.
You're requesting something like asylum that involves immigration authorities.
You are trying to obtain a green card, citizenship, or immigration benefit, and you need to supply additional evidence.
You need immediate, emergency assistance involving an immigration matter.
You received notification the authorities are starting deportation proceedings against you.
You have been deported from the U.S. but want to return.
You have an immigration application that was refused or denied in the past, but you still want a green card or citizenship.
You have been convicted of a crime and are trying to prevent deportation from the United States, or you are trying to enter the United States.
You want to move to the United States for work.
You are engaged or now married to a U.S. citizen and need to change your citizenship.
You need an investment-based visa.
How Do I Choose an Immigration Attorney?
When evaluating an attorney, you should ask many questions during the consultation. Ask about not just the fee structure but what their experience is. Even in the world of immigration law, someone who focuses primarily on green card applications for people working in the United States may not have experience handling a deportation proceeding. You should find attorneys that specialize in situations just like yours.
Cheaper is not always better. Beware of attorneys that charge very low rates. You might luck out and find an immigration attorney near you who does not charge for the consultation, a great place to save money, but long-term you don't want to go with the cheapest option just because you want to save money. A single error in your forms can result in a denied green card, denied citizenship, or deportation.
What Is the Immigration Lawyer's Average Cost?
Immigration law attorneys near you are often the most expensive type of lawyers. They know how challenging it can be to obtain the legal right to live or work in the United States, and they traditionally charge a flat rate rather than an hourly fee. This means, during your consultation, they will look over your legal status and explain how much they charge for cases and concerns like yours.
A flat fee can work in your favor because the attorney will charge the same amount even if it takes long hours, months of extra work on your immigration application, or anything else. You pay the same rate regardless.
The average rates for immigration lawyers near you are as follows:
A traditional visa for someone you're engaged to can cost anywhere between $750 and $2,000. This does not include changing the status once you are married.
A marriage-based green card can cost anywhere between $800 and $4,000.
If you are in the middle of deportation proceedings in immigration court, the average cost will be based on the expected work associated with your proceedings such as filing motions, appearing in court, and so forth. This can be anywhere between $1,500 or upwards of $10,000. If you end up appealing your case, this might come at an additional cost.
Do Immigration Attorneys Usually Charge for Consultations?
It is quite common for an immigration lawyer near you to charge for a consultation. This might be anywhere from $100 to a few hundred dollars. It depends entirely on the attorney.
If you just want legal advice before deciding whether to move forward with proceedings, the law firm will typically charge you for the consultation, assuming you get all your immigration questions answered, and then lay out their fees if you move forward with the immigration process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I do some of the work myself?
There are situations where you might split the cost of the service with your immigration attorney by handling some of the work on your own, such as the menial document gathering or administrative tasks. Then, you can have an attorney sign off on the official forms. However, this is something you will have to discuss during a consultation since not all attorneys will represent you if they have not handled all the paperwork themselves.
Why should I work with an attorney when I can find answers online?
The internet is a wonderful resource, and it has a great deal of information, but not all that information is reliable. If you try to file an immigration petition that has been incorrectly drafted, it can delay your chance of getting immigration benefits or even cause your case to be dismissed. Your application requires comprehensive knowledge of current immigration law and how it applies to your specific situation.
Should my attorney be a member of AILA?
This acronym stands for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. It is a national organization, and your lawyer does not have to be a member to be a good lawyer or for you to work with them. Being a member does not automatically make someone experienced, just the same as not being a member doesn’t mean someone is inexperienced. What is most important is that the attorney you hire has experience in your specific matter.