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5 Frequently Asked Questions for an Immigration Attorney
I have decided to create this article to guide you when choosing an immigration attorney. I’m going to review the five most common questions an immigration attorney gets.
How Do I Get My Work Permit or Green Card?
In the U.S., you generally can’t just request a work permit. You need to first apply for something, get approved, and then request work authorization.
Regarding a green card, there are many ways to get a GC. Each path has different requirements, for example, a marriage-based green card would be different from an asylum petition, but both successful petitions will result in a Green Card.
Let me take this opportunity to explain what a good immigration attorney should be doing for you. The most important part, the strategy has three fundamental questions for every immigration case.
1. Are You Qualified for an Immigration Benefit?
First, a good immigration attorney makes sure that you qualify for an immigration benefit, like a green card, u-visa, or asylum. Most attorneys stop here. Their only concern is if there is enough for them to charge you to work on their case. The rest they will figure out later. And if you are disqualified, it’s your problem.
2. Is There Anything From Your Past That Could Disqualify You?
Second, a good immigration attorney will evaluate your past to see if there is something that could disqualify you:
- Multiple entries
- Criminal convictions or pending criminal charges
- Misrepresentations to Immigration Officials
- Prior Denied petition, or
- Prior orders of Removal or presently in removal proceedings, to name a few.
3. Can We Prevent You From Being Disqualified?
If you have any of these, a good immigration attorney needs to consider the third part: Can we fix it? For example,
- Post-conviction relief to change criminal convictions
- Waivers for unlawful presence or misrepresentation
- Motions to Reopen prior orders of removal
- Motion to Terminate proceedings to continue with your application
After creating your plan, a good immigration attorney will help you implement the strategy by:
- Order prior immigration documents through FOI
- Order any criminal documents through background searches
- Helping you collect supporting documents
- Preparing the petitions and reviewing each question with you in detail
- Assembling the package and mailing it to the right office with the correct filing fee
- Answering your questions timely throughout the process
- Going with you to interviews or court, and
- Recommending litigation where necessary to hold the government accountable for a bad decision.
Can You Guarantee My Result? What Is My Chance of Success?
This is the 2nd most common question I get. It is a tough one to answer because no two cases are the same. At Andres Mejer Law, we focus on the 9-5-3 method. That refers to nine principal paths to legal status, five things in your past that can disqualify you, and three ways to fix it.
Most attorneys only focus on your paths for legal status, and even then, they don’t take a comprehensive approach. They will only discuss the type of cases they want to handle, not necessarily the ones you qualify for. At Andres Mejer Law, we take a holistic approach and evaluate all your options. Talk to one of our New Jersey immigration attorneys today! Call us at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.
Let me give you an example, let’s take George and Maria. Let’s assume they both entered with a tourist visa, and they are both now married to a U.S. citizen. That means they are both applying for a marriage-based green card.
Maria came to the US in 2010 and applied for Asylum. Unfortunately, her petition was denied, and she was referred to immigration court. When she didn’t show up for court, she was ordered removed from the U.S.
In this example, both George and Maria entered legally, and they are both looking for a GC based on marriage to a US citizen. However, what makes the case different is the items in their past that potentially disqualify them.
- George is in removal proceedings. Either those proceedings need to be terminated, or he will have a trial in front of an Immigration Judge to get his Green Card.
- Maria was already ordered removed. That means she either has to reopen her removal proceedings (and then be in the same position as George), or she can file for a waiver and then apply to get her Green Card.
The point is when you focus on the 9 (paths for legal status), 5 (disqualifies), and 3 (Fixes), you can get vastly different paths to a Green Card with different costs and different chances of success.
What further compounds the analysis is that this process can take years. During that time, judges can retire, the law can change, and your circumstances can change. For example, you might be accused of a crime that could have devastating consequences to your chance of success.
When we meet you for the first time, we develop your strategy to have your best chance of success, but nobody can guarantee your results. Anybody who does is lying to you. Anybody’s percentage chance of success without going through this method is not to be trusted.
How much will my case cost?
Many factors go into determining who much your path to legal status will cost.
Factors that Keep Costs Down
- No prior crimes
- No prior denials from immigration
- No Prior fraud on the government or immigration
- No prior captures at the border
- No prior deportation
- Not in removal proceedings
- Only filing for one person
Factors that Push Costs Up
- Criminal convictions
- Prior denials of an immigration petition
- Suspicion of fraud by immigration due to prior petitions
- Previous contact at the border by CBP
- Previously deported by CBP
- In removal proceedings
- Filing for several family members
Choosing immigration services is a lot like buying a cellphone. There are many options.
- What operating system do you want, Apple or Android?
- What phone manufacturer do you want, Apple, Samsung, Google, Huawei, etc.?
- What phone color do you want, black, white, silver, gold, or red?
- What carrier do you want, Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, or Sprint?
- What accessories do you want, a phone case, AirPods, etc.
Immigration can also have lots of options. We build your plan based on three core questions.
- Do you qualify for a green card: FBP, EBP, Asylum, SIJ, VAWA?
- Is there something in your past that can disqualify you: multiple entries, prior denied petitions, criminal charges, removal proceedings?
- If you do, can we fix that problem: motion to reopen, post-conviction relief, a waiver.
Because we focus on those three questions, two clients filing for their green cards might have very different fees.
Most notarios and attorneys only focus on the first question: Do you qualify for a green card?
The good attorneys will discover the second question, does something disqualify you? Most often, that is only after you have paid thousands of dollars and will suggest you don’t continue with the process because it’s not worth the risk.
The exceptional attorneys will recommend a way to fix the issue that disqualifies you, but only very few will tell you this at a no-cost consultation. You will pay hundreds of dollars to get a few minutes with these attorneys.
Most attorneys either don’t know to ask about these issues or don’t bother to do it before hiring them. They would rather accept your money, work on your case, and later drop you as a client or blame you for lying to them.
At AML, we don’t work that way. One of our core values is to leave you in a better position than when you entered our world. We believe you need the strategy to come first. We need to figure out how to answer questions 1-3 first; that strategy determines how we get your green card.
Talk to one of our New Jersey immigration attorneys today! Call us at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.
How much are we going to charge you for our legal fees? Here is how we determine the cost of your green card:
There is an application process that you pay for. The price does vary between FBP, EBP, VAWA, U-visa, Asylum, or SIJ. All will result in a green card at some point.
- Do we need to order documents from immigration through the FOIA process (7 agencies) for prior border contacts, deportations, or prior petitions?
- Do we need to order copies from criminal courts and a background search from the FBI?
- If there is something that makes you ineligible, we then have to fix it through a waiver, reopening a criminal case, reopening a removal order, or refiling for relief.
- Are you or your relatives in removal proceedings? We then either need to terminate the deportation or have a trial.
- Since February 24, 2020, we now need to worry about whether the government might accuse you of becoming a public charge in the future. We have to present your earning capacity very carefully to avoid this issue.
- Are you applying just for yourself, or are you also trying to get a green card for your spouse and kids? Are they all in the US or outside the US or mixed? Do they need a waiver?
- Are you going to have an interview in the US? If so, do you want an attorney to prepare you and go with you to the interview?
Each one of these has a cost. It’s for that reason that my assistants can’t give you a price on the phone. It requires the knowledge and experience to determine what needs to be done and what we charge for these services.
The actual cost of legal fees for Andres Mejer Law varies from as low as $3,500 to over $30,000, depending on each of the above.
At Andres Mejer Law, we take a holistic approach and evaluate all your immigration options. Talk to one of our New Jersey immigration attorneys today and call us at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.
Other Immigration Costs
Does that price include everything? No, it doesn’t. There are other costs. After legal fees, you need to consider what the government will charge you to review the documents you are filing.
- For each adjustment, the government charges $1,240.
- For each waiver you need, the government typically charges $985.
- You also likely have the costs to translate any documents you are submitting with your applications. Birth certificates are most common, but sometimes newspaper articles, police reports, and medical reports must be translated by a certified translator.
- Lastly, there are FEDEX costs to mail the documents. That can be significant in complicated cases.
But you don’t need to worry because we do offer payment plans.
Andres Mejer Law Immigration Payment Plans
If you pay in a single payment, we give a 10% discount. Many clients get loans from friends and family to get the discount. Some even open new credit cards just to get a discount.
If you can’t pay in full with a single payment, we typically offer payment plans of 3, 6, or 9 payments. It depends on your particular case. Sometimes your green card has several moving parts, and we can break down your case into stages and charge accordingly.
So, the more money you bring with you, the higher the possibility of getting a discount on your immigration case
We give your case the priority that you do. The sooner you pay for your case, the sooner it gets filed. We typically need several weeks once we have all the documents, you have answered our questions, and ensure that you’ve paid in full to file your case. So, the more you can bring with you to start your case, the lower your payment plan will be and the faster we will file your case.
At Andres Mejer Law, we offer affordable payment plans that immigrants can afford. Talk to one of our New Jersey immigration attorneys today! Call us at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.
How long will my case take?
Every case is unique. What I mean by that is how long a particular case will take can vary on who is applying for you (U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or self-petition). What are you applying for: Green Card, U-visa, Asylum, or VAWA, for example, and where you are applying (e.g., what local office or immigration court is handling your case).
You certainly will be waiting for the U.S. government longer than you would like. Unfortunately, delays are a fact of life in the immigration field. Just because it takes a long time, it doesn’t mean it was your fault, your attorney’s fault, or the government’s fault. Well, that’s not entirely true; it is likely the government’s fault.
Who is applying?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reviews applications on a first-come, first-served basis. However, employment-related petitioners get to jump the line by paying extra for “premium processing.” That isn’t available for most types of cases.
If you are in a visa or green card applicant category that does not allow unlimited numbers to be given out each year, a certain amount of waiting will be built into the process.
For example, suppose you are applying for a green card as the married child of a U.S. citizen. In that case, you are in the third preference category of family-sponsored visas. You can expect to wait an average of at least ten years before your priority date is current and a visa number, and green card, are available to you.
There is nothing you can do about this except to keep an eye on your progress and advise the National Visa Center (NVC) if your address changes.
What are you applying for?
Not all paths to legal status take the same amount of time. You need to consider the type of application that you are requesting. Are you looking for a temporary visa for a relative to visit you? Are you filing for Asylum in the U.S.? Both have dramatically different processing times. Even a marriage-based green card can vary whether you will be applying from inside the US or outside the U.S.
You also need to consider if you are in removal proceedings, do you need a waiver, do you need to fix a prior criminal conviction? Each of these steps takes time. Often you have to do one first, get a positive outcome before you go to the next step.
Where are you applying?
USCIS has field offices across the United States, and each applicant is assigned to a field office based on their ZIP code.
Every field office receives a different number of applications, directly impacting its processing speed compared with other offices. Various USCIS offices have substantially different waiting times, especially comparing less-populated areas with large cities such as New York or Los Angeles.
USCIS then publishes the processing wait times for each field office and updates the figures once every month.
Other factors that could delay your case
If you move after filing your application with USCIS, you will need to file a change of address with form AR-11. If you move outside the area of your field office, your case will be transferred to the new office. This results in a delay in the processing of your case.
Your security check is taking a long time to process. Most immigration applications require you to have fingerprints, or “biometrics.” Once you attend your appointment, the prints will be sent to the FBI and other security agencies to check your criminal and immigration records. This can add weeks or months to the process, particularly if you have a common name or an extensive record. Also, make sure to include your full name and any prior names you have used. Otherwise, the security check may have to be redone.
You haven’t responded or didn’t respond accurately to a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny. Even if you think it’s a stupid request or irrelevant responding timely and accurately is crucial to the success of your case. If you ignore the request or respond late, this will, at the minimum, cause a delay in your case but could also result in a denial.
Why Didn’t the Other Attorney I Met Explain That To Me?
I get this question at least once or twice a day when I am meeting with potential clients. Unfortunately for you, most attorneys (and non-attorneys) don’t take a holistic approach to consultation.
What I mean is, at Andres Mejer Law, we use the 9-5-3 method, which dramatically simplifies the strategic approach to achieving legal status.
Most attorneys or non-attorney focus only on the type of immigration cases they want to handle. Consider, marriage-based green card or a citizenship application. However, there are many other paths to legal status.
Nine Principal Paths to Legal Status
We look at the nine principal paths to achieve legal status, which includes
- DACA, TPS, Parole in Place, or Advance Parole;
- Family-based petition;
- Employment-based petition;
- Violence Against Woman’s Act;
- Asylum, withholding of removal, convention against torture;
- U-visa, S-visa, or T-visa;
- Special Immigrant Juvenile;
Five Things in Your Past That Can Disqualify You
Very few attorneys and non-attorneys will consider things in your past that could delay or disqualify you from achieving legal status. We focus on the five most common.
- Pending crimes or prior convictions;
- Multiple illegal entries to the U.S. after 1996;
- Allegations of misrepresentations or fraud;
- Pending removal proceedings or prior orders of removal; and
- Unlawful presence in the U.S.
Three Ways to Fix It
If you have a path to legal status and have one of the disqualifiers, most attorneys will tell you they can’t help you. Very few attorneys will take the next step to evaluate how to fix that issue in your past. There are three general ways to fix your past.
- There are many different waivers, like an INA 237(a)(1)(h), Form I-601, form I-601A, or I-212. Each waiver handles a different issue. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to find the best solution to your case, and it typically can’t be done at the initial consultation,
- Reopening your prior order of removal through a motion to reopen, or
- Undoing a criminal conviction through a post-conviction relief process.
I’m pretty sure some of these questions are or at least one were on your mind at some point. And after reading this article, I hope it brings you some clarity and takes a few of them out of your way.
At Andres Mejer Law, we have competent and compassionate immigration attorneys who can help you get legal status in the U.S. Call our New Jersey immigration law firm at (888) 695-6169 to schedule a consultation.
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