What is time with your wife and kids worth to you?  Would you be willing to be separated from your spouse for five years and your kids for two years, just to save some money?  Would you be willing to pay for unnecessary applications, again in the hopes of saving some money?  That is precisely what you are risking when you follow the advice of a non-attorney in immigration matters.

This is an account of a client I just met.  I was so offended by what I heard that I am postponing our regular Thankful Tuesday Testimonial video for this discussion.

Tim is a U.S. Citizen married to Maria, a Mexican national who entered the U.S. without permission in 2006.  She was given a date to appear in immigration court and when she failed to appear she was order removed in 2007.  Maria then married Tim and they went to a non-attorney and asked how they can fix Maria’s legal status.  The advice they were given would be malpractice if the person was an attorney.  Because they are non-attorneys they don’t face any consequences.

This non-attorney told Maria to go back to her country and Tim would file an immediate relative petition on her behalf.  Both Maria and her two kids would shortly come to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.  Following this advice, Maria left the U.S. in 2009.  The Immediate Relative petition was approved and Maria was given an appointment to go to the U.S. consulate in her country in 2012.

Nearly three years after Maria left the U.S., Tim flew to her country to be with her at the interview expecting to come back to the U.S. with his wife and his two step kids. Here is what the non-Attorney didn’t know or didn’t care enough to research, Maria can’t come back to the U.S. for five years because she failed to appear in immigration court.  That means despite being married to a U.S. citizen and voluntary leaving the U.S. after receiving an order of removal, she can’t come back before 2014.

The consular official explained that she is inadmissible to the U.S. for two reasons:

  1.  She accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. for over a year and is subject to a 10 year ban (there is a waiver), and
  2. She failed to appear for immigration court and was ordered removed following her failure to appear and can’t return for five years (no waiver).

Her two teenage kids were allowed to come to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents.

Tim called the non-attorney for advice.  The non-attorney recommended he file a waiver and promised Maria would be Tim and the kids soon.  So Tim returned to the U.S. without Maria but with her two kids.

The non-attorney filed two different waivers, which had zero chance of allowing her into the U.S. before 2014.  Tim paid for the non-attorney’s time and the filing fees.  The non-attorney didn’t even do a good job documenting the waivers because even the unlawful presence waiver was denied.  Tim got the decision two weeks ago.

None of this needed to happen.  Maria should never have been told she has to leave the U.S.  A motion to reopen to the immigration court should have been filed explaining her lack of appearance and requesting the court allow adjudication of her immediate relative petition.  She still would have had to leave the U.S., but she would not have been subject to a five year ban.  She wouldn’t have been separated from her husband for now four years and for her kids for two years.

The unlawful presence waiver should have been granted, if the proper documentation was provided.  Unfortunately, for Tim it wasn’t.  He is now the single parent of two teenage boys.  The stress was too much for him.  He now suffers from anxiety and panic attacks.  He had to leave his management job because he couldn’t handle the stress.  His income is half what it used to be.

This all could have been avoided.  This is what comes from bad advice.  We will help Tim with the correct waiver filed after the fifth year anniversary of her departure from the U.S. with the appropriate supporting documents. When you calculate what Tim would have paid in legal fees and subtract what he paid the non-attorney and the unnecessary waiver applications he probably saved three to four thousand dollars.  However, he lost five years with his wife that he will never regain.  His health has deteriorated considerably.  His step kids have spent another two years separated from their mom.  Is this worth a “savings” of three or four thousand dollars?