3 Tips to Make the Most of Your Immigration Consultation
Consultation with a U.S. Immigration Attorney
The 30-60 minutes that a person spends interviewing their potential immigration attorney may turn out to be the most important conversation of their life.
During the consultation, the Client must evaluate the attorney’s Expertise, Personality, and Responsiveness. If the consultation is properly utilized, the time spent will leave the immigrant with a strong understanding of their case–including a realistic evaluation–and whether this is the right attorney to provide help. If the immigrant is not properly prepared for the consultation, does not know what questions to ask or what to look for, they may not get the most out of the consultation—or worse, make a decision they will later regret. That decision may impact the immigrant’s finances, family and future ability to reside in the U.S.
Therefore, it is critical that an immigrant interviewing their potential Immigration Attorney knows what to ask and how to prepare. Here are three steps to guide you on your way.
1) Become an educated customer. Just as you would not walk onto the lot of an auto dealership and make an impulse purchase based on the first car that catches your eye, be sure to do your homework with regards to the attorney that you will be interviewing. In conducting your research, you’ll want to find out: 1) Whether the Attorney has passed the State Bar’s strict requirements for Board Certification as a Specialist; 2) Whether the attorney practices many types of law or only devotes their practice 100% to immigration law; 3) Whether the attorney has previously worked on the specific type of immigration matter that concerns you; 4) Whether the attorney has previous experience working for the USCIS or the government immigration agencies; 5) How long the attorney has been practicing immigration law; and 6) Whether the attorney offers fixed pricing or only allows pricing on an hourly basis. Resources include: the website of the State Bar in which the attorney practices, a lawyer listing provided by the American Immigration Lawyers Association, background information available on the attorney’s website, and local bar referral organizations.
2) Bring all relevant documents. In order for your potential attorney to properly advise you, provide them with the benefit of having all relevant information on-hand. This is akin to a doctor being able to see your X-rays in order to diagnose your health. If yours is a family-based case, bring marriage, birth and divorce certifications; for employment-based cases, bring a copy of your C.V., diploma, academic transcripts, and professional licenses; for investment matters bring documentation related to the establishment of your enterprise, tax returns or bank statements, as applicable; if you have a criminal record, bring your certified court disposition and any proof of rehabilitation; if you are a crewman, bring your I-95; if you are an F-1 or J-1, bring your I-20 or DS-2019; and in all cases, bring a copy of your Passport, U.S. Visa and Form I-94, if available. If your consultation is by telephone, the documents should be forwarded to the attorney prior to the interview. This is a small, but key sampling of relevant documents.
3) Know which questions to ask. One of the most important aspects of the consultation is feeling comfortable and confident with the attorney you are interviewing. To that end, during your consultation, be sure to understand whether the attorney you are speaking with will be the one actually working on your case. This is important for three reasons: 1) Immigration is deeply personal. During the consultation, trust and confidence are necessary in order to be able to feel good about the relationship, you want to be sure you feel comfortable speaking to the individual who will help you throughout this critical process; 2) During the consultation, you can evaluate the attorney’s personality. Are they kind and empathetic? Are they rushed and uninterested? Do they have a call-back policy? Are they knowledgeable in answering your questions? Body language, demeanor and communication style are very important; and 3) The third reason you need to meet with the attorney who will actually be working on your case is that certain information is discussed and disclosed during the consultation that is critical to the case. You wouldn’t want to have a conversation in the future with the new attorney on your case and learn that he is unaware of what was previously discussed.
Coming prepared to the consultation, researching beforehand, and knowing what to ask can make all the difference in the world between positive results in an immigration case or disappointment and frustration.