Finding the right immigration lawyer is essential, whether you want to visit the United States on a tourist visa, come here to work or study, become a lawful permanent resident o
r even become a naturalized U.S. citizen. But where do you start? How do you know you’re working with the right immigration attorney for your case? The answer is simple: You go to a free consultation with an immigration lawyer and start asking questions.
Do Most Lawyers Offer Free Consultations?
Some visa immigration lawyers offer a free consultation to meet, become acquainted and discuss ways in which their associates can assist you with visa and immigration issues. The purpose of an initial visit is for you and the attorney to determine if representation makes sense, and for you to decide if the attorney is the right choice for you. Not all attorneys offer this consultation for free, though, so you should check before you start scheduling appointments with lawyers all over town.
How To Find The Right Lawyer: 10 Questions To Ask When Meeting With Visa Immigration Lawyers
In an initial consultation, you can ask questions to determine if
you and the attorney are a good fit. At the same time, the attorney will be evaluating the circumstances of your case to determine whether your case is actionable – and whether you’re likely to succeed. If you’re not a good fit for each other, or if the attorney won’t be able to help you, either of you can decide not to work together after your initial consultation.
Before you commit to moving forward with an immigration attorney, it’s a good idea to ask several questions. In fact, you can even make a list of questions that will help y
ou make the best possible decision. Your questions should revolve around things like whether the lawyer you’re talking to:
- Focuses specifically on immigration cases
- Belongs to professional organizations related to immigration
- Has a track record of honesty and looking out for his or her clients
- Has experience in situations like yours
- Will have time to take on your case
Here’s a quick look at ten questions you should ask every immigration attorney you speak with about your case.
1. Do You Specialize in Visas and Family Immigration Law?
Many law firms include immigration law as only one part of a broader portfolio of specialties. If immigration law is not the attorney’s primary focus, changing laws and accelerated enforcement may catch him or her off guard. Knowledge and experience are the best defense, and dedicated visa immigration lawyers understand how to manage unique situations. The fact is that immigration law changes quickly – and new rules are implemented all the time. That means when a lawyer focuses on divorce, for example, he or she is more familiar with those aspects of law than with immigration law; that may not be good for your case.
It’s okay if you decide to work with an attorney who does pr
actice other types of law. However, in the vast majority of cases, it’s best to work with a lawyer who only practices immigration law, handling cases such as:
- Family immigration
- Business immigration
- Green cards
- Deportation defense
- Immigration appeals
2. Are You A Member Of The American Immigration Lawyers Association?
Membership in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, is an endorsement of the attorney’s commitment to immigration law. It shows that the lawyer you’re working with demonstrates a desire to staying abreast of new developments and best practices.
Knowledge of successful practices may be more important than ever as many states, most notably Texas, are passing legislation for stricter requirements and tougher enforcement. While attorneys do not have to be members of AILA, think of it this way: Would you rather your child’s geography teacher stopped learning in 1990, before the global map changed as much as it has today, or would you rather that he or she was up-to-date on new countries and changing borders?
For most people, the best thing to do is work with an attorney who’s a member of AILA. Immigration laws can change quickly, and being part of a professional association helps ensure that the attorney you’re working with is continually receiving new information. If the attorney you want to work with is not a member of AILA, you can ask follow-up questions like these:
- What organizations are you a member of?
- What type of continuing education do you participate in?
- Have there been many recent changes to the immigration laws that pertain to my case?
3. Have You Ever Been Reprimanded Or Disciplined For Dishonesty?
The question is a great – and almost unheard-of – question to ask a lawyer. If an attorney has been disciplined for unscrupulous behavior in the past, you may want to look elsewhere. It’s always okay to check on an attorney’s disciplinary record; in fact, you should. Overzealous or dishonest behavior has no place in the court system; the worst part is that if an attorney does something that deserves reprimand or discipline while working for you, it can harm your case.
Some attorneys who have been reprimanded in the past learn from their mistakes and go on to provide excellent representation, but the fact is that if an attorney has done something unethical in the past, you’re under no obligation to believe that he or she won’t do it again.
Depending on the answer you get – and the information you discover while you’re checking a lawyer’s record – you may decide that you should work with another attorney.
Pro tip: You should also check an attorney’s online reviews before making a hiring decision. People aren’t shy about leaving honest feedback on social media and major search sites, so do a little homework to find out whether a lawyer seems trustworthy and reputable.
4. How Many Cases Have You Handled That Are Similar To Mine? What Kinds Of Outcomes Do You Get For Your Clients?
Experienced visa immigration lawyers or their associates have likely handled cases like yours. Asking about the lawyer’s track record is a reasonable request. Most importantly, the lawyer can describe the circumstances and the strategy used to achieve a favorable result, while explaining how the same approach could work for you. A good attorney will be happy to tell you about favorable outcomes, whether you’re asking about citizenship and naturalization, deportation, immigration appeals or visas.
Remember, though, that no attorney can guarantee a specific outcome. Your lawyer should be able to tell you that he or she is confident that you’ll get your desired outcome, but immigration law is very complicated and sometimes things happen that derail a case.
5. How Long Have You Practiced Immigration Law?
The adage that there is no substitute for experience is as true in immigration law as it is elsewhere. Knowing how immigration courts operate, understanding law enforcement, or even having gained the respect of the officials involved can put your case in a more favorable light. Attorneys who are familiar with court policies and procedures can navigate the system more easily than those who don’t – and it never hurts to work with a lawyer who has worked with immigration cases long enough to have earned a name for him- or herself.
6. What’s The Best Strategy For My Case?
After you have described your circumstances and shared your objectives, the visa immigration lawyer should propose a plan of action. The plan should include a timeline and defined deliverables. When you explain your case to an attorney, he or she will most likely have a good idea about what to do from the start – and after a good conversation, the attorney you’re working with will fine-tune a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.
Most experienced attorneys will recall similar cases and be able to explain their outcomes to you, as well.
7. What Are My Chances Of Success?
Experienced visa immigration lawyers should have an idea about whether they can help. He or she should be realistic and honest about solving the problem. Integrity is important (especially because some attorneys accept cases and fees even when they believe there is no chance for success), and you want to work with an attorney who believes in what you’re trying to accomplish.
Again, no attorney can guarantee a specific outcome. However, working with a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of immigration law – and knows how most of his or her cases turn out – is extremely important if you want a successful outcome.
8. Do You Have Time For My Case Right Now?
Qualified immigration lawyers can be very busy. A too-heavy case load can mean your case will not get the level of attention it deserves. The best solution is not to delay the start and ask the lawyer to present a timeline for execution and completion. The logical follow-up question will be, “When would you start to work on my case?” The bottom line is that your case is important, and you deserve to work with an attorney who has time to devote to getting you the best possible outcome.
9. How Much Will It Cost For You To Represent Me?
Before your attorney can start working on your case, you’ll need to hammer out the financial details. You’ll want to know:
- What kind of retainer fee you’ll need to pay
- How much the attorney charges per hour
- How often the attorney will bill you
Many attorneys offer payment plans, but remember, many immigration documents require filing fees. Those fees typically can’t be put on a payment plan, so you’ll need to think ahead when it comes to financing your case.
You may also consider asking whether you’ll be charged for things like copies, sending emails, or leaving messages – and if so, how much. It’s very common for attorneys to charge these fees, as they’re using their own resources to handle every aspect of a case.
Related: Immigration Fees Explained
10. Will We Enter Into A Written Contract?
A formal written contract is essential to ensure that both the immigration lawyer and the client are aware of the expectations and responsibilities. You can expect to enter into a written contract with the attorney you choose, and you’ll both be expected to hold up your end of the bargain.
You should hang on to your contract and keep it until your case is complete. Your attorney will also have a copy. The contract will include things like payment terms, how often you’ll be billed, what the attorney will do for you (such as filing forms with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, mailing documents and spending time researching your case) and what you need to do to change the scope of your attorney’s service (such as asking your attorney to appeal an adverse immigration decision or defend you in removal proceedings).
Schedule a Free Immigration Consultation with Davis & Associates
Scheduling a free immigration consultation with a reputable immigration attorney is the first step to solving your immigration problems. The team at Davis & Associates is eager to answer all of your questions and guide you on what your options are.
We pride ourselves in our integrity and if we don’t think we can help you, we’ll be honest and send you on your way with as much information as possible. If we do think you have a case, we’ll do everything possible to get you a favorable result.
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in North Texas including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and surrounding areas. Our attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals.
About Davis & Associates:
Davis & Associates is the immigration law firm of choice in Houston & North Texas including Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Frisco, McKinney and surrounding areas. Their attorneys provide expert legal counsel for all aspects of immigration law, including deportation defense, writs of habeas corpus and mandamus, family-sponsored immigration, employment-sponsored immigration, investment immigration, employer compliance, temporary visas for work and college, permanent residence, naturalization, consular visa processing, waivers, and appeals. Attorney Garry L. Davis is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.
Dallas Contact Info:
Address: 17750 Preston Road Dallas, TX 75252
Houston Contact Info: Address: 6220 Westpark Dr, Suite 110, Houston, TX 77057
Phone: (832) 742-0066