Let’s face it. If you hire a full service immigration lawyer, it can get expensive. With a large number of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) filing fees costing hundreds of dollars, many green card seekers and other foreign nationals may not want to shell out more money to an immigration law attorney.
If your immigration application is fairly simple, you might be able to perform some of the work on your own or with the help of a reputable individual. You might want to consider filling out the forms by yourself and then asking a U.S. immigration lawyer to check your work. However, for complicated immigration issues, it is generally wise to obtain more thorough legal services.
1. Simple Immigration Applications
Some USCIS applications are so straightforward that an applicant might not need very much help from an immigration law attorney. For example, the application for a work permit, the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization is fairly easy to understand. I-765 form is usually filed when a person already has a qualifying status, so the hard work in gaining the status has already occurred.
Further, the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is pretty simple. This is merely an application for reentry into the U.S. after going abroad. The same goes for a Form I-90 ten-year green card renewal. Generally, it is an easy application because the green card holder already has permission to live and work in the United States.
It is important to note; however, that even these types of USCIS applications can become more complicated for some foreign nationals. Therefore, when in doubt, it can be wise to check with an immigration law attorney.
2. USCIS Applications That Could Be Easy but Are Very Important
Other immigration applications might be uncomplicated, but they are extremely important. For such transactions with the USCIS, many people prefer to use the services of a U.S. immigration lawyer a little bit more.
Marriage-based Green Card Applications (Spouse Immigrant Visa)
The path to a spousal green card can be a long one. Moreover, depending on foreign national’s situation, they should apply for marriage green card through different strategies. Some of them had better first enter the U.S. on a K1 fiancé visa and then hold the wedding. Some of them should marry first and file Form I-485 adjustment of status and wait for their green card inside the Unite States. Others will need to wait for green card abroad.
No matter which strategy to adopt, there is a lot of evidence that must be supplied to the USCIS before they will approve a conditional marriage-based green card. Later, more forms and documents will be required to remove the conditions on the spousal green card. Therefore, although all of these efforts can be made independently, asking an immigration law attorney for help can make the whole process much smoother.
Other Family-based Green Card Applications
In addition to marriage-based green cards, other family-based immigrant visas can be straightforward but of high importance to both the U.S. resident and their foreign national relative.
With the USCIS Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident needs to not only complete the paperwork, but also must provide evidence of a valid relationship. Often this means acquiring birth certificates that are written in the language of the foreign country. Therefore, it will be necessary to get a valid English translation with a proper translation certificate.
By the time a foreign national has reached the point of achieving United States citizenship, they will have completed many forms, provided a plethora of evidence, and spoken with the USCIS staff on multiple occasions. Thus, the N-400, Application for Naturalization, may be one of the most critical documents that a lawful permanent resident ever submits to any organization in their entire lives.
Moreover, there is the matter of preparing for the interview with a USCIS adjudicator. Applicants for citizenship generally need assistance with rehearsing for their naturalization interview. Therefore, even though the N-400 is not a very complicated form, the reward of U.S. citizenship is so valuable that many green card holders want the guidance of an immigration lawyer to improve their chances of becoming a naturalized citizen.
3. Immigration Services That May Warrant the Help of an Attorney
There are several immigration services that should probably not be attempted alone. Some interactions with the U.S. immigration courts and the USCIS are better performed while relying on the specialized knowledge of an immigration law attorney. Some of the more complex immigration events include the following:
- Employment-based green card petitions (EB1, NIW, EB2, EB3, EB4, EB5)
- Working visa applications (H, L, O, R, P, E, etc.)
- Form I-290B appeals of denied applications
- Appeals to the EOIR, BIA, or a U.S. Circuit Court
- Motions to Reopen or Reconsider
- Legal representation in immigration courts
Many of these immigration activities should almost always be left to a professional with a law degree. Attorneys who address these matters on a daily basis can perform these tasks much more quickly and effectively.
4. Complicated Immigration Issues
No matter how basic an immigration or green card service may seem, it can be muddied by individual factors. For example, if a foreign national has a criminal record, there could be grounds for admissibility that must be overcome.
If someone requires an affidavit of support, and then discovers that they are in need of a cosponsor, the process can be lengthier and more complex. Additionally, persons who have overstayed their visa, or those who have arrived in the U.S. seeking asylum, may have a specific set of circumstances that would benefit from a strategic approach by an immigration law attorney.
Even though an authorized immigration service provider may charge less money than a U.S. immigration lawyer, they are only able to perform certain tasks. An authorized immigration service provider does not need to go to law school; however, they must be accredited by the Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP).
Unlike immigration lawyer, an authorized service provider can only give you advice on which immigration forms to submit, explain the immigration options that are available to you, and communicate with the USCIS about your case. Therefore, if you need more assistance than that, you should probably consult a lawyer.