Common Immigration Lawyer Fees Explained

Common Immigration Lawyer Fees Explained

Finding an experienced immigration lawyer is essential to achieving peace of mind and understanding your rights while you and your family reside in the United States. Professional, dedicated immigration lawyers work diligently to stay on top of all new immigration legislation that can impact the status of their clients.

However, legal protection is not free. As with any job that people perform, payment is a reasonable expectation.

So, what are common immigration lawyer fees?

Start With A Free Consultation With A State-Certified Immigration Attorney

Looking for protection by any non-certified representative is a major mistake. There are imposters with titles like Immigration ConsultantAdvisor or Advocate who claim to represent individuals and their rights, yet only take money without providing any real services. Confirming the credentials of any candidate immigration lawyer is crucial.

The best immigration lawyers, like Davis & Associates with offices in Dallas and Houston, offer you a free first-time consultation to discuss your situation. At this initial meeting, you will be able to present the details of your circumstances, ask questions about similar cases, request references, and learn the immigration lawyer’s qualifications. The lawyer might offer strategies and, if you are to consider proceeding, will outline the professional immigration lawyer fees to proceed with your situation.

Immigration Lawyer Fees Explained

Related: 10 important questions to ask when you meet an immigration lawyer

Based on your initial consultation, you’ll be able to decide whether you want to work with an attorney. However, before you make a commitment, it’s a good idea to understand common immigration lawyer fees and how much you can expect to pay for an attorney’s services.

Common Immigration Lawyer Fees

There are many types of immigration-related cases, ranging from visa filings to deportation defense. The type and number of actions to be performed will always determine an immigration lawyer’s fees. During your initial free consultation, you should be very direct in asking and understanding the fee structure.

You should remember that every attorney is different, and that:

  • You’ll need to pay a retainer fee
  • Hourly rates can vary
  • Visas and permits have different rate structures
  • You may be eligible for premium processing, which results in an additional fee

Retainer Fees: The Most Common Immigration Lawyer Fees

Retainers are fees paid in advance as either a percent of the proposed cost or prepayment for several hours work to be completed. When the lawyer has used up the retainer, additional charges are added. When you pay the retainer fee, the lawyer you pay “works off” the balance using his or her normal rate. Attorneys can set their own retainer fees, and every attorney you talk to (from different firms, that is) is likely to have a different retainer fee.

Immigration Lawyer Fees

You must pay the retainer fee before the attorney can begin working on your case. Most attorneys won’t start completing the forms you need (and certainly won’t file them) until you’ve paid the retainer fee. That’s to help ensure that attorneys are paid for the time and effort they put into your case.

A Word on Free Consultations

However, skilled and talented attorneys are happy to offer free consultations. You can talk to an attorney for free – both for a little bit of legal advice on how to proceed in your case and to determine whether you want to work with a particular lawyer. (Some people use free consultations as a way to gauge how much an attorney knows about circumstances like theirs, as well as a sort of interview to determine whether they’ll work well together.)

A free consultation doesn’t mean that an attorney is actually working on your case. It means that the attorney is giving you guidance based on what they know about your current situation (which is likely only what you’ve told them). It doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship, either, though the attorney will keep what you’ve discussed completely confidential.

Think of your free consultation as a stepping stone that helps you – and your attorney – decide whether you should work together on your case.

How Do Lawyers Calculate Their Own Retainer Fees?

Usually, attorneys figure out how much to charge for a retainer based on how long they think they’ll need to work on a case. Sometimes attorneys underestimate how much time a case will take; if that happens, you’ll pay them an hourly fee for each hour they work over the time your retainer fee covered.

Example: To keep things simple, let’s say your attorney charges a $1,000 retainer (although immigration attorneys charge a wide range of retainers, with some being several thousand dollars). If your attorney charges a rate of $100 per hour, he or she will work on your case for 10 hours before you begin accruing additional charges at the attorney’s regular hourly rate.

You pay the retainer after you choose to work with the attorney. After you’ve paid the attorney’s fee, they will begin working on your case. That work will include being available by phone or email (or in some cases, text message) when you have questions about your case. It’ll also include finding the right forms, filling them out, and filing them with the government to get your case started. (Your case doesn’t officially start until you’ve filed something with USCIS.)

What Happens If Your Lawyer Gets Your Case Done Faster And You’ve Overpaid?

Attorneys can’t charge retainers that are likely to represent more hours than a case will most likely require, but sometimes lawyers get things done more quickly than they anticipate. If you’ve paid a retainer fee and your attorney finishes your case without using all the money, he or she will return it to you.

Your attorney will provide you with a statement that says how many hours they actually worked on your case, so you know what your total cost was, and you’ll get the remainder of your money back for the hours that your attorney didn’t need to spend on your case.

Paying An Immigration Attorney An Hourly Rate

Hourly rates are offered by immigration lawyers when the complexities of the case are more significant. When providing a trial defense for a detention, deportation situation or an immigration appeal, the time required can be difficult to specify. However, the immigration lawyer might offer an upfront estimate based on a similar case.

The hourly rate that one immigration firm charges can be different from the hourly rate another firm charges. That’s because some attorneys are more experienced or have more resources available to them than others. It’s similar to dining out, purchasing electronics and using other services because you choose what you’re looking for and can pick between different cost ranges.

Generally, more established firms known for success charge more than an attorney who doesn’t focus primarily on immigration cases (such as an attorney who practices divorce, criminal defense and estate law). That’s because they have a track record of achieving results for their clients.

Common Lawyer Fees - Davis & Associates

Filing For Visas Or Permits

Filing for visas or permits has different rate structures. For visa applications, you must pay filing fees charged by the USCIS plus the preparation fees required by the immigration lawyer. The total cost for an EB-5 immigrant investor visa, for example, is higher than it is for a more straightforward re-entry permit for a green card holder or conditional permanent resident.

The time required by the lawyer to prepare and submit forms and documentation will also affect your total cost. Professionally prepared visa applications filed with the help of an immigration attorney often pass more successfully because the potential for error and confusion is eliminated. That comes with experience – and again, experienced attorneys know what mistakes to avoid and have the resources to check (and double-check) the documentation they intend to file. Another thing to note is that with most visa filings, a lawyer will charge a fixed immigration lawyer fee; that’s because of the process it takes to fill out and file the appropriate forms.

You May Choose Premium Processing – But Not Everyone Does

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers an optional premium service in some cases (namely for those filing Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker). USCIS calls this the premium processing, and it guarantees people who pay for this service that the agency will process the application within 15 calendar days. If USCIS is unable to process a petition in this time, it will refund the premium processing service fee and continue with expedited processing. The filing fee for Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, can change. You can access the most current fee information here.

Beneficiaries of visa petitions typically can’t seek premium processing unless they’re eligible to file a self-petition. (That’s when the petitioner and the beneficiary are the same person.)

However, it’s entirely up to you whether you choose premium processing. If you’re looking at a very long wait time for processing, it may be worthwhile to you to pay for premium processing. However, in some cases, the costs aren’t justified. If you’re not sure whether you should pay for USCIS’s premium processing service, you should talk to your attorney about your options. You can weigh the standard wait time against the cost and decide whether it’s worth it for you.

Additional Considerations Concerning Immigration Lawyer Fees

Value received is more important the price paid. A successful, experienced immigration lawyer may be easier for you to work with and more likely to achieve your goals than a less expensive and less proven lawyer. Check out your immigration lawyer’s reputation and success rate before agreeing to proceed. You want to know whether an attorney has worked on cases like yours before – and what their success rate is – before you make a hiring decision.

Knowing the expected cost of your legal immigration services is essential. Sometimes language may be a barrier, so working with a multilingual law firm like Davis & Associates may be necessary to understand what the cost estimate will cover.

What About The State Of Immigration – And Working With An Attorney?

Given the ongoing debate over the future of immigrants in the United States, many residents are more concerned than ever about their future. These discussions are also important for those wishing to come to the United States to work, attend school or be with family. Additionally, if you’re considering any form of business immigration (such as when you’re part of a U.S.-based company that wants to bring in foreign talent), it’s typically smart to work with an attorney.

In Texas, for example, the passage of SB4 by the legislature has tightened the scrutiny of all immigrants while punishing “sanctuary city” officials who do not actively assist in the pursuit of any potential undocumented immigrant. Also, in the United States Congress, the debate surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has placed the future of the so-called DREAMers in jeopardy.

These ongoing changes make it more and more important to seek legal advice from experienced and reputable lawyers. The peace of mind that your case is being well looked after is worth the cost.