Is An Immigration Lawyer Worth The Cost?

Hiring an attorney means adding legal fees to your immigration case, but often, avoiding mistakes can save money and time down the road - and prevent visa denials and even removal from the U.S.

By Liz Daneu, Massachusetts Attorney

In a digital society with online access to forms, instruction booklets and a plethora of research data, you may be wondering whether or not hiring an immigration lawyer to help meet your needs is worth the expense. If you’re thinking government fees for visas, adjustment, biometrics and filing have been on a rising trend for close to a decade now, so it might make more sense to cut costs and handle your immigration case on your own. Many simple immigration cases can be handled without legal representation, but immigration cases are rarely simple.

Here are just a few reasons why it’s wise to seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in immigration law.  As you’ll read below, navigating the complex framework of immigration laws and regulations, in addition to the laws and regulations of your individual state and/or country can be challenging and even dangerous when exclusion, deportation or separation from your loved one/s is a possibility.

Why Pay For An Attorney?

There are three main reasons to consider hiring a qualified immigration attorney:  complexity of the application process for visas and family-based petitions, a growing trend toward detention and deportation and the availability of waivers for certain non-US citizens who have minor crimes or have been in the US unlawfully for certain periods of time.  Each of these situations presents unique problems for the prospective immigrant and requires careful analysis and expertise.  With the right assistance, your potential obstacle can become an avenue to immigration to the US.

Efficiency and Risk Reduction

It is estimated that hiring an immigration lawyer to complete your immigrant or non-immigrant visa application can save you four to eight weeks in processing time.  An immigration lawyer knows exactly what types of visas or relief are available to you and can help you compile a valid and complete application the first time around.  This will save you time and money, and could avoid you receiving a rejection of your application, or a request for more evidence.  Furthermore, a lawyer can prepare you for your interview at a consulate abroad, or at USCIS within the country and help streamline the process, greatly lowering the risk of a rejection of your application in its final stages.  Lastly, an immigration lawyer will evaluate the facts of your particular case and advise you on your probability of obtaining the type of visa you seek, as well as helping you to avoid certain pitfalls that could lead to exclusion from entry into the US, as well as deportation and bars to re-entry.  This could save you the trouble of being separated from friends, and loved ones – an invaluable savings!

Many people do not realize that applying for relief via a waiver, a visa and/or adjustment of status makes them much more readily available to the immigration authorities, and in some cases, open to deportation and/or exclusion.  Imagine paying hefty filing fees and going through a months-long process only to be apprehended by DHS officials and placed in proceedings before the immigration court!  With regard to exclusion and deportation, depending on your particular situation, you may be in danger of being detained in a correctional facility or being deported and excluded from the US for a period ranging from 3 to twenty years.  Because federal immigration law is a stand-alone statute and most crimes fall under state law, many non-citizens have a non-conviction for state law purposes that actually qualifies as a deportable conviction for immigration purposes.  A qualified immigration attorney can help you determine if any past run-in with the law has placed you in jeopardy of deportation.  The recent decision in the Padilla case illustrates just how crucial immigration advice can be in a criminal matter!

If you are seeking adjustment of status based on your marriage to, or engagement to a US citizen, or if you’re seeking another type of visa or asylum, you will want the advice of an immigration lawyer to determine whether you are better off leaving the US and applying for relief at a consulate abroad, or remaining in the US and going through the process (which could include proceedings in immigration court) within the US.  If indeed your adjustment must take place in proceedings, you will not want to be facing an immigration judge in court on your own!  These strategies can only be determined by a specialist in this area of the law.  Even a general practitioner will not be familiar with the immigration statute and the relevant waivers and regulations to advise you in a competent manner.

Illegal Presence - Determining if There's a Way to Stay

Unlawful presence is very prevalent given the complexity of the immigration statute, so many individuals want to know if there are ways to adjust their status from undocumented (illegal) to legal residency.  An immigration lawyer can review the facts of your case and help you determine what avenues, if any, are available to you.  She can explain to you the dangers you face regarding deportation and bars to re-entry based upon your case and can help you normalize your status wherever possible.  This alone brings great piece of mind to the non-citizen and to his or her loved ones as well.  If you require a waiver of inadmissibility to cure your unlawful presence or certain crimes and certain types of fraud, you will want a qualified specialist helping you through this process as the risks are great and the harms (deportation and bars to re-entry) often cannot be undone.

In addition to waivers for unlawful presence and certain crimes, there are mechanisms available such as the U visa and the K-1/K-3 fiance’ visas that often allow for quicker processing times and less hassle than other routes, and again, an immigration lawyer would know how to package the application and steer you through the process with as little hassle as possible.   When searching for a lawyer, beware of immigration centers or individuals who advertise the lowest price possible, as they will generally not put the type of commitment into your case that will be necessary for you to obtain the desired result.

Avoid the pitfalls of immigration law by hiring a qualified immigration lawyer who belongs to a professional organization of immigration lawyers and who keeps up-to-date with the ever-changing trends in this complex area.

Updated: Feb 3, 2016

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