Our current political climate is causing a lot of anxiety when it comes to immigration. The immigration process to enter the United States has gotten progressively more strict and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to get better. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your chances at obtaining legal status or your green card in the United States are shot. It just means that you need to do a bit more homework in regards to immigration, but that’s why I am here. I want to help you succeed in your immigration case, so I am going to equip you with some key questions to ask your immigration lawyer.
Engaging in the immigration process can be difficult in itself. This process requires you to be as meticulous as possible to obtain the best results. With that said, the lawyer you choose to oversee your immigration needs is vital. You want to trust your lawyer, but overall, you want to make sure they are competent to work your case. In order to do this, it is advisable that you do some research on your lawyer before hiring them.
Part of the research should include asking them about their credentials. This is completely legal and you have all the right to ask for this information. The first thing you want to do is to check if they are specialized in immigration law. Unfortunately, there is no specific exam for lawyers to specialize in immigration. Depending on the state, they’ll be advised to take an immigration certification, but that’s about it. This means that any lawyer can claim they’re “experts” in immigration, when they’re really not. To avoid this, all you need is their first and last name and check if they’re members of AILA. AILA is the only organization that lawyers who are serious about immigration law use to stay informed with current immigration-related events. If they’re not part of this organization, then it would be best to stay away from them.
Another thing you can do to ensure that your immigration lawyer is fit to represent you is to ask where they’re licensed. You should be wary of immigration lawyers because they can practice anywhere in the United States regardless of where they were originally licensed. But to play it safe, you want an immigration lawyer who is directly licensed in the state you reside. This has more to do with your protection. If you hire an immigration lawyer who is not licensed in your state, then you might not be able to report them adequately.
Aside from all this, you don’t want to forget to ask your potential immigration lawyer how much experience they have in immigration law. You can simply do this by asking them about their previous immigration cases and what were their success rates. Please stray away from the lawyer that says that they’ve never lost an immigration case as this is highly unlikely. You want someone who is frank with you and doesn’t beat around the bush when they speak to you about your case. As a final step in choosing your immigration lawyer, you want to check their online reviews. We live in a world that is influenced by technology and feedback. No business is safe from reviews and that’s for good reason. In the legal world, reviews can help shine light on their character, for the most part, and it can help you get an idea of the person you might hire. All in all, covering all your bases when you become part of the immigration process is of the utmost importance.
Once you’ve hired the immigration lawyer of your liking (after your extensive research, of course), you need to ask the right questions. It is important you understand that asking the right questions for your case can be as pivotal as choosing the right lawyer.
A lot of the times, emotions are bouncing all around during anything pertaining to an immigration case, and this is normal. It’s actually completely understandable. But you need to stay focused. Take note that I am in no way certified to give legal advice, but please take this as a personal advice, if anything. Nevertheless, a lot of these questions are personally suggested by many immigration lawyers as well.
I’ve had plenty of people in my life that have been undocumented and have had success in their cases. Even my mom and I went through the immigration process many years ago, so I understand how serious this is.
The following are some of the questions (included in both English and Spanish) that you should ask an immigration lawyer immediately. They’ve personally been used quite recently by some people close to me that underwent the crucial process of immigration. Thankfully, these questions helped their case stay on the right track and gave them positive results. These people were able to acquire legal status and avoid deportation due to how concise they were throughout all of this process. I want the same outcome for you.
What are my options to obtain and maintain a legal status in the U.S.?
A lot of the times, when people go to an immigration lawyer, they go in thinking that there’s only one option to acquire legal status. However, that’s not always how it is. There’s sometimes more than one way for people to get their legal status in place. Also, asking how to maintain your legal status is substantial to your case. You want to know about renewals or if that even applies to you. It’s important to note that sometimes you’ll be required to do extra steps after obtaining legal status. I can assure you that you don’t want to find out about these seemingly small details at the end of your case.
What documents do I need in order to fill out the applications?
It’s not just about the applications, it’s about their supporting documents as well. However, before you go ahead and sign anything, always making sure to ask if that’s the best application or form to use for the case. There are so many types of visas and situations that it may be overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to file. This is why you want to be absolutely sure that you are sending the proper application.
You also want to make sure you are using the most up-to-date application. It is essential that you do this because it might save you some time down the line. See, the people I know who just came out of this situation, had an issue with their application. Unfortunately, the immigration lawyer who did their paperwork didn’t check this small step. She printed everything out and downloaded it into a PDF as well. All seemed like it was going alright, until these people received a notice that they had used the wrong forms. But how? Well, their immigration lawyer hadn’t noticed that the USCIS had updated one form and changed some things around the same week she had printed out the forms. I’m not saying that she didn’t do her job well, but nothing should be overlooked in this situation. Therefore, checking that everything is up-to-date is extremely necessary to do.
How much are the legal fees?
It is understandable that you would want to get things done as fast as possible, so you might not think of asking about fees from the start. But this is a mistake. Ask this. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you. You want to ask about the fee for the consultation before anything. You don’t want to be heavily in debt before your case even begins.
How much are the application fees?
Please keep in mind that this process is usually a bit pricey. Ask about all the fees associated with your case that way you can prepare accordingly. You can also look for the application fees on the USCIS website.
On average, how long does the process take?
You want to know how long you’ll be waiting for a response, especially if you are at a high risk of deportation or being placed in a detention center. There are visas that can take years to process, so you definitely need to know this. If you find out that the visa you are requesting is extremely lengthy, you could ask for other visa options. You never know what other things are out there to help your case out.
What are my limitations while the process is ongoing?
This is probably one of the most important questions of this list. You always want to verify what you can and can not do as you wait to be approved. It is pertinent you figure this kind of information out as soon as you can to avoid any negative impacts in your case.
When can you start working on my case?
Though lawyers are known for how busy they are, you want one that isn’t too busy to focus on your case. Ask them for a specific timeline and if they’ll be working the case alone or with the help of someone. If anything, you can use the timeline they provide you as a means to hold them accountable should you feel the need to remind them of their commitment.
If my case is denied, what are my options?
As optimistic as we want to be, it is critical that you also ask this. Just like the saying goes: “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” For this, you want to ask your immigration lawyer if there is any way that you can apply for another type of visa if your first request is denied. You want to see if extending your current status is an option too. Don’t be afraid to ask this. It’s better to be prepared, than all of this coming down on you as a surprise.
If I’m allowed to travel during my immigration process, what must I do to avoid any issues with immigration when I travel?
In some scenarios, you are allowed to travel as you wait for your case to be approved. But as you suspected, this is a sensitive situation. In order for everything to go smoothly, you want to confirm where you can travel. Sometimes you’re only allowed to travel within the United States, while other situations allow you to travel outside of the United States as well. When you’ve gathered that information, you will want to ask which documentations you need to carry with you when you travel. Although, I do suggest you take as many documents as possible whenever you travel. This even means taking the letter that states you are waiting for your immigration interview. You can never play it too safe in this situation.
How will we communicate with each other?
Since immigration cases need to be handled with care, especially with how things are going recently with the current administration, you’ll want to have an established communication with your immigration lawyer. Of course, this doesn’t mean it will be acceptable to bombard their email inbox and phone lines. You just need to know what’s the best way to reach them.
Have you handled similar cases to mine before?
It is imperative you ask this. You don’t want a lawyer who barely has experience handling cases like yours. Instead, you’ll want a seasoned lawyer who can provide proof of previous cases that are similar to yours.
Can I work in the U.S. while I wait for my legal status to be approved?
You don’t want to provoke any unfavorable consequence towards you, so it’s best you ask whether you can work or not as you wait to hear about your case. If you can’t, ask about applying for a work visa and if that would be beneficial to you in the long run.
What is a permanent resident and a conditional resident?
A permanent resident, which can be known as a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR), is someone who is not considered a U.S. citizen, but has the ability to live and work legally in the United States indefinitely. LPR are given a green card as proof of this. Now, a conditional resident is also given a green card, but it is only valid for two years. In this situation, you will need to file a petition to remove the condition 90 days prior to its expiration, to possibly be updated as an LPR.
Understanding this type of information can allow you to see if the process advised for you is the right one for you. Yes, listen to your legal advice intently, but question them about it too. It shows that you can’t be fooled.
What are grounds to deny the request for my legal status in the United States?
Unknowingly, sometimes people may do things that can affect their request. To avoid this, ask what disqualifies you or makes your case more likely to get denied. Once you learn this information, you’ll be more confident in the actions you take as your case is being processed.
Does my family qualify for immigration benefits as well, and can I include them in my application?
There are certain instances when your updated immigration process can benefit your loved ones. If that’s the case, you want to include them when you find out, since it’ll make their process much more seamless. It doesn’t have to be difficult every single time. The system has some policies in place for families.
Since the immigration process is something that is often prevalent in our latinx community, I am including a condensed version of the same questions above in Spanich. This way you can share with any of your loved ones going through this. ¡Suerte!
15 Preguntas para hacerle a tu abogado de inmigración:
¿Cuáles son mis opciones para obtener estatus legal y como hago para mantenerlo?
¿Cuáles documentos necesito para llenar las aplicaciones?
¿Cuánto son los costos legales?
¿Hay costo para las aplicaciones?
¿Tipicamente, cuanto se demora el proceso?
¿Cuáles son mis limitaciones mientras espero que me aprueben mi caso?
¿Cuándo puedes empezar a trabajar en mi caso?
¿Si niegan mi caso, cuáles son mis opciones?
¿Si tengo permiso para viajar mientras aprueban mi caso, que debo hacer para evitar problemas cuando viajo?
¿Como nos comunicamos?
¿Haz tenido casos similares al mío anteriormente?
¿Puedo trabajar en los EEUU mientras espero que se finalice mi caso?
¿Cuál es la diferencia entre un residente permanente y un residente condicional?
¿Que fuera causa para que nieguen mi caso?
¿Es posible que mi familia califique para los beneficios migratorios y que los pueda incluir en mi solicitud migratoria también?
Ultimately, the goal is for a positive outcome in your immigration process. To make this process easier for you, please pay close attention to detail. Also, follow your legal advice as closely as possible. Of course, these things don’t guarantee an approved case, but at least they will help you throughout the process. And don’t forget to stay strong. Good luck!