Hiring an Immigration Lawyer: What You Need to Know

Legal issues in immigration law can range from acquiring the proper visas and eventually obtaining naturalized status, to facing deportation and removal proceedings. It takes a skilled immigration lawyer to handle the many potential legal issues that immigrants may face. Finding that skilled immigration attorney is another story. Here are some things to consider when looking for an immigration lawyer.

Start with Basic Information

The general rule for hiring any attorney is to make sure that they are licensed and authorized to practice law. This information can be verified on most state bar websites. Many sites will also require an attorney to post their disciplinary history and area of practice. This information will first tell you if the attorney has had complaints in the past. If the attorney has been disciplined by the bar for inattentiveness to client issues, he or she is not the lawyer for your immigration case. The second nugget of information is the attorney’s practice area. If the attorney posts on the state bar website that he or she usually does family and corporate law, but does not mention immigration law, you may want to ask more questions before you hire this attorney. Despite their enthusiasm, you don’t need your green card application to be their introduction to immigration law. Immigration law is grounded in administrative law, which means missed or premature filings can cause applications to be delayed or rejected. Hire an attorney that routinely practices immigration law and is aware of current changes in the law.

Speaking to an Immigration Lawyer

When you do make an appointment with an attorney, do not be afraid to ask questions. Many steps in immigration applications will require you to talk about personal details of your life. If you are not comfortable talking to your attorney about general issues, you won’t be able to communicate the critical personal issues. Many attorneys use a consultation as an opportunity to get you to hire them - but keep in mind that this is also your opportunity to evaluate the attorney. If the attorney seems to be over-selling his or her skills or promising extremely quick results, you may want to visit with a second immigration lawyer before you finalize your decision. There are very few “quick results” when you are dealing with a bureaucracy like immigration services. 

Avoid Scams

Finally, be cautious of scams. The person may talk like a lawyer, but unless they are licensed to practice law, they cannot practice law. Some people hold themselves out as “notarios,” or public notaries. Notaries can offer services like notarizing documents, but they are not attorneys and cannot give you legal advice. 

An experienced immigration lawyer will listen to your situation, explain your options, answer your questions, and give you a realistic timeline for resolution to your immigration legal issue. It may take more effort to reach a qualified immigration attorney, but the effort will pay off in the form of less frustration and better results.