Do I Need A US Immigration Lawyer?

An immigration lawyer is an independent practitioner (unconnected to the U.S. immigration authorities) who helps clients deal with a wide range of issues relating to visas, green cards, U.S. citizenship, and other immigration benefits. U.S. immigration law is federal, which means that you can get help from a lawyer in any U.S. state, even if you are currently living in another country.

You are not required to have a lawyer when applying for an immigrant visa or green card in the United States or overseas. If you have a straightforward case, are clearly eligible for the benefit you seek, and have no record of crimes or negative run-ins with immigration authorities, you can potentially proceed all the way to a visa or green card without a lawyer. However, there are numerous types of situations when you’ll need a lawyer’s help—or will save yourself a lot of time and frustration by getting it.

When to Call an Immigration Lawyer

If You Can’t Figure Out Your Options

A person could potentially qualify for multiple visas or types of green cards but it’s difficult to know which is best, or fastest. An immigration attorney can help the person decide which visa best suits his or her needs and qualifications.

If You Are an Employer Looking to Hire Foreign-Born Workers

As a busy business owner, your time is likely not well spent puzzling out the details of immigration law. Sponsoring a foreign-born worker is not a very easy task and there are many things you have to take into consideration. Additionally, the PERM application (ETA Form 9089) is complex. Employers find it difficult to understand how to complete the required Form 9089.

There’s no room for even the smallest mistake when completing Form 9089. Almost any error will result in a denial; even it it’s a one-cent difference in the worker’s salary.

Many immigration attorneys specialize in the ins and outs of the Form 9089 and are available to assist employers throughout the PERM process and other types of work-visa applications.

If You Are Inadmissible

The most common legal issue encountered by would-be immigrants is the claim by USCIS or the consulate that they are inadmissible to the United States.

If you know that you are inadmissible to the United States, it makes the most sense to get legal help before you begin the application process.

If You Are in Immigration Court Proceedings

If you are or have ever been in immigration court deportation (removal) proceedings, be sure to see a lawyer. If the proceedings are not yet finished or are on appeal, your entire immigration situation is in the power of the courts—and you will not get the results you want trying to use the same application procedures as people who are not in proceedings.

If You Are Confused/Overwhelmed by Paperwork

Even the simplest of U.S. immigration applications involves filling out some forms, and you will most likely be asked to follow some detailed instructions about gathering and including other paperwork and fees. Make a mistake, and you may find your application returned, delayed, or even rejected.

Immigration lawyers have dealt with this paperwork countless times before you, and have both the knowledge and the streamlined systems to prepare the applications smoothly. They have computer programs in which they can enter your information and spit out the forms in an instant. Hiring a lawyer can be well worth it for the peace of mind alone.

If You May Be Encountering Delays

Another circumstance that often drives people to lawyers is the failure of USCIS or the consulate to act on or approve the application, for reasons that have more to do with bureaucracy than law. For example, an applicant who moves from Los Angeles to San Francisco after filing the green card application might find that the application, which should be transferred to the San Francisco USCIS office, has instead disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole for months. Delays at the USCIS Service Centers are also far too common.

Lawyers do not have a lot of power in such circumstances. But at least the lawyer may have access to inside email inquiry lines, where they (and only they) can ask about delayed or problematic cases. Even lawyers frequently have trouble getting answers to such inquiries, but it’s often worth a try.