Immigration law is complex and constantly evolving based on the policy decisions from the federal government. It is important to find an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process. Before you decide to hire an immigration attorney, it is important to set up a consultation where you can meet the attorney, ask them questions about your case, and decide if they are the right person to represent you in your immigration matters. This first meeting may be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be…
Below are some helpful questions to ask an immigration lawyer before hiring one.
Before your first meeting, I recommend checking the State Bar of Texas to find out if the attorney is in “good standing,” which means they are a licensed attorney and eligible to practice law. Just be aware, because federal laws (not state laws) govern the immigration process, an immigration attorney may be licensed in another state and also be able to practice immigration law in Texas. Therefore, it is important to know where the attorney is licensed and check with that state bar’s website to confirm they are in “good standing.”
Do You Focus On Immigration Law?
Ask about the types of law the attorney practices and if they exclusively practice immigration law. You do not want an attorney who only dabbles in immigration periodically. If the attorney practices another area of law, ask how much of the attorney’s time is dedicated to immigration. You absolutely want an attorney who keeps up with the latest developments in immigration law.
Another way to evaluate the attorney’s commitment to practicing immigration law is to check the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) website to see if the attorney is a member. AILA is a national not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to educating immigration lawyers through continuing legal education seminars and providing up-to-date information on the ever-changing legal landscape. If the attorney is not a member, it is important to ask about their experience.
How Many Cases Have You Handled That Are Similar To Mine? What Kinds Of Outcomes Do You Get For Your Clients?
Ask the attorney if they have experience in handling cases that are similar to yours. The laws and regulations are complicated. In fact, immigration law covers such a wide range of topics that some immigration attorneys only practice a specific niche area such as business immigration, family immigration, or deportation defense. Other immigration attorneys handle all types of cases. Either way, make sure the attorney has experience in your type of case.
Also, ask what were the outcomes of those cases similar to yours. No attorney can guarantee a successful outcome in your case, but their answer may help you gauge their experience and understanding of the process.
Ask the Immigration Lawyer for an Opinion on the Best Strategy for Your Case
During the consultation, you’ll have an opportunity to explain your circumstances and goals. Afterwards, the attorney should propose a plan of how they will help you and provide you with a timeline. It’s important to ask about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, as well as the pros and cons of the various options available to you.
What Sort of Timeline Should I Expect?
Ask the attorney about how long it will approximately take to resolve your immigration case. First, ask about the attorney’s workload–can they get started on your case right away, or do they have other cases ahead of yours? Also, ask the attorney what information or documents, if any, they need from you to get started working on your case. Second, ask about how long the government agency will take to review your case. If you are filing an application or form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the website lists its processing times. If you are in deportation proceedings, the timeframe is less predictable. However, the attorney should be able to explain the process of what to expect, even if the timeline is unpredictable.
Who will be working on my case?
Ask the attorney who will be handling your case. For example, does the attorney delegate to another lawyer or associate in the office. Also, find out what the attorney’s involvement will be in your case, and who else will be in contact with you. Many lawyers have a team of professionals to help work your case, including paralegals and administrative assistants. If the attorney is not fluent in your best language, ask if they have bi-lingual staff or translators available.
Ask the Lawyer Whether You are Going to Sign a Contract
If you decide to hire an immigration attorney, they must provide a contract for legal services, which is an agreement between you and the attorney. The contract should lay out the terms of the attorney’s representation, including the tasks the attorney will complete, important dates, their fee, any additional costs, how and when to make payments. Review the contract carefully before you sign it and ask if you have any questions. Make sure you retain a copy of the agreement signed by both you and the attorney.
What are your fees?
If it is not clearly listed in the contract for legal services, it is important to request a breakdown of the costs and fees involved in your case so there are no surprises. The attorney will have fees for their services. The government may also require filing fees for the applications you are filing. Ask about any additional expenses that might come up, such as translations or mailing costs. Also, find out what types of payment the lawyer accepts and if they offer payment plans.
Why should I choose you?
You want to choose a competent and experienced attorney with whom you feel comfortable sharing important and confidential information about your life. Depending on the complexities of your case, your professional relationship may last months and maybe even years. It is important to make sure the attorney is committed to helping and guiding you through the often time-consuming and complicated process.