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Do you Need a Lawyer?

Do you Need a Lawyer?

Annalisa Liuzzo (February 26, 2014)

Occasionally, as attorneys, we are asked to justify why an individual should hire a lawyer to represent him/her in the immigration process. It's a tough question to answer. To begin with, how can I answer that question without making it appear that I want you to pay me to prepare the case for you? Thankfully, my character is well established enough for most to understand that that's just not my style.


If you need us, we're here for you, but if you don't, I'll tell you.  For example, I have a great number of clients who call me requesting that we represent them in connection with DV-lottery entry filings.  My response is always the same.  It is so straight forward and simple that, I promise, you can do it yourself.  After all, if our firm files for them, we would have to charge for our time.  It's not necessary to pay us to do something that I know my clients can simply handle on their own.  Of course, I'll accept if the client insists, but he/she rarely does.  He appreciate my honesty.  I truly am more than happy to advise a client to do some things on his/her own.  Unfortunately however, there are very, very few processes left related to U.S. Immigration that I truly believe that my clients should be filing on their own.  This list includes an AR-11, Change of Address Form, a DV-Lottery Entry and, in some cases, an N-400 naturalization application. (Of course, USCIS sort of changed all that a few weeks ago when it issued the new N-400 form - it's more than 20 pages long!). 

It is imperative for the individual considering representing his/her ownself to consider that, even if his/her specific case requires only the filing of forms, it is the analysis of the information that eventually is chosen to be included in those forms that will determine just how smoothly the particular immigration process will go.  Or, it is the failure to present a form altogether that can be the difference between approval or denial of a matter altogether.

A few examples: A client (of course, they only become my clients after they make the error of attempting to represent themselves) calls the U.S. Embassy in their country. She has a job offer and needs an H1B visa.  She knows this because she did some reading on the internet.  The consular staff member with which she speaks at the Embassy tells her she needs an I-797 in order for the Embassy to grant her the visa.  No problem.  She asks the consular staff member how to get one.  The response is to complete and file an I-129 form.  Sounds quite simple and straightforward.  My future client completes the I-129 form, sends more than $2,000 in filing fees to USCIS and is rejected.  The file is very, very, very far from being complete and USCIS cannot adjudicate the application as received. I don't blame the client.  After all, if that's what the Embassy told her, what reason does she have to believe that the process is any more complicated than what she was led to believe?  How is she to know that the company needs to file a Labor Condition Application with the U.S. Department of Labor, await its certification, request an evaluation of her foreign degree.  Demonstrate the requirement of the degree in the specialty that she has for the job that is being offered to her; complete - not one, four-page form, but more than 20 pages of various forms, a letter in support describing the qualifications for H1B classification, etc.?  She has no way of knowing at all. That's why she needs the lawyer.

But what about the straight-forward marriage case?  After all, you married a U.S. citizen.  You are considered an immediate relative.  Right now, you were told by USCIS when you went downtown to ask some questions, it's only taking about four months to get the green card.  All you have to do is complete an I-130 and a I-485 application and wait for USCIS to call you and your spouse down for an interview...ahhh, if only it really were that simple.

So, what to say to that sweet client who really did think that it was as simple as completing a few forms and did it all himself who now has been denied permanent residence and has received a notice to appear before an immigration judge?  Oh, I say, we'll fix it, don't worry.  Of course, I wish I could say, why didn't you call or come see me before?  There really was no issue in his case.  He simply failed to file ALL of the forms he should have. Not even the USCIS website lists all the requirements of a marriage-based application.  There's alot more to it than just an I-130 and an I-485 form.

We can't really blame the Embassies, Consulates or even USCIS or CBP (you know, the officer at the airport who tells you to do something simple that your lawyer tells you will never work or, better yet, get you deported permanently?!).  None of them really do know what goes into the petition or application process.  They just don't receive any training on that part. They only know what they end up receiving at the end of the case preparation process. If it looks good, it gets approved.  If it's missing something or if something is expressed in a manner that causes the the Officer to question an element of your eligibility, it will get denied, kicked back requesting additional evidence or refused.

Or, the foreign artist or actor.  He/she files on his or her own.  She read the information about the O-1 visa on-line.  She was denied.  Now, the client comes to us for help.  Yes, we agree that he/she is qualified for the O-1 visa classification, but our work just doubled.  Instead of having to present a strong argument in favor of our client's eligibility for O-1 classification now, we have to present a strong argument and a one-by-one response to all of the elements that USCIS based its original denial on. 

Visa refusals are recorded and generally create difficulty for those who chose to simply apply for ESTA in order to enter as tourists.  The ESTA application asks if you have ever been refused a visa.  9 times out of 10, you will not have your ESTA request approved if you answer 'yes'. If you dishonestly answer 'no', you have now provided false or misleading information to the U.S. government which will affect your future visits or intention to remain in the U.S.  If you are denied a visa petition you filed with USCIS, know that each and every sheet of paper ever filed for you is kept in a file that USCIS creates for you when it first receives your first correspondence.  If you proceed to a lawyer after refusal, there will be things that the lawyer will have more difficulty 'fixing' after you may have committed something to your record in a manner you probably should not have.

When it comes to U.S. Immigration, if it sounds too simple, the extreme opposite is probably true.  U.S. Immigration laws and regulations truly are complicated and navigating through them should be left to the experts.  Bottom line: hire an experienced attorney for the best possible results.

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Do you Need a Lawyer?

We have used the services of the author of the article, AnnaLisa Liuzzo, and immigration couldn't have been smoother or easier. Her years of experience simply the process.

grammar counts

it's = it is. check paragraphs 4 and 8


These little mistakes happen all the time. We just corrected it. Thanks.

My pleasure....

I know they happen...just trying to help.