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Immigration Lawyers: 20 Benefits

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Why use an immigration lawyer when immigration forms are free to download, complete, and submit? Here are twenty reasons why you should strongly consider using a U.S. immigration lawyer to assist you when submitting an application to U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS).

1. Your Own Answers on USCIS Petitions/Applications Can Easily Be Wrong

Without having a background in U.S. immigration law, it’s easy and common for people to provide wrong answers on USCIS forms. While the chance of erroneously answering a question is sometimes increased because of the imperfect way in which USCIS phrased the question, it is more common for self-represented persons to provide wrong answers because they simply lack a basic understanding of U.S. immigration terminology.


While there are websites that offer assistance with completing forms, they’re a poor substitute for involving a licensed attorney who knows your case in detail and can advocate tirelessly on your behalf. One popular error made when completing an “I-130 Petition for Alien Relative” occurs when people answer, affirmatively, both the questions regarding “Adjustment of Status” and “Consular Processing”. This happens because immigration terminology itself is confusing. If you choose Adjustment of Status, you cannot choose Consular Processing, and vice versa.


When faced with such conflicting answers on a petition, USCIS policy is to terminate the petitioner’s request to send the approved petition to the U.S. consulate abroad. The result is a major headache for applicants. In order to reinstate the request for consular processing, a petitioner needs to fork out $465 and submit an I-824 application to USCIS. The result is stress, substantial processing delays, and the payment of unnecessary additional fees to USCIS. However, while this error is rectifiable, there are other errors that have far more severe consequences.


For instance, there have been cases where foreigners submitted an entry for the annual Diversity Visa Program (“Green Card” lottery), only to be selected and then denied from using their winning tickets to acquire U.S. permanent residence. In some of those cases, the entrants wrongly listed their countries of “chargeability” on the applications, setting forth countries where they were permanent residents rather than their actual countries of chargeability, which are usually (but not always) the countries where they were born. A common example occurs with people born in Eritrea who reside in neighboring Saudi Arabia, and wrongly list Saudi Arabia as the country of chargeability rather than Eritrea.

There are countless more examples like the ones mentioned above that make it a worthy investment to hire a U.S. immigration lawyer.


2. Another Acceptable Answer May Be Better

Sometimes, when multiple answers to questions are acceptable, even lawyers struggle to choose the best answer to provide on behalf of a client. The ultimate choice comes down to what the lawyer considers to be the most favorable answer for the client’s unique situation. In choosing an answer, a lawyer levies upon a variety of available research tools, including minutes from quarterly USCIS Stakeholders’ meetings and pronouncements from other U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Department of State.


Keep in mind that given the polarizing nature of U.S. immigration issues, a lawyer may select a different answer on a client’s application from one month to the next, and certainly from one U.S. Presidential Administration to another. This is because the lawyer is continually staying up to date on changing USCIS policies, and as those policies change, it may be more appropriate to answer a question differently.

3. You May Succumb to Temptation to Unnecessarily Lie

Unfortunately, this is extremely common. There are many self-represented people who choose to lie and/or conceal facts that would not harm their chances of being approved. They do so out of an abundance of caution: because they have no clue if certain answers would truly jeopardize the approval of their applications. Instead, they let their gut presumptions influence their answers; sadly, to their own detriment.


For example, some people conceal the fact that they worked illegally on fake green cards, and while this fact alone would not prevent most people from being approved for permanent residence, the concealment of that fact can indeed lead to a denial of permanent residence. Immigration lawyers counsel many people to disclose their prior status violations, overstays, unauthorized employment, social groups, fake green cards (i.e. LPR cards / I-551s), and even fake social security cards. Lawyers can do this because of their considerable training in the repercussions of these disclosures.

4. It's Better to Submit Certain Forms on Paper Rather Than Online


The online forms are rigid when it comes to the format of answers to questions. In attempting to contort answers to satisfy the requirements of the online forms, people have provided answers that lead to Requests for Evidence (RFEs), Notices of Intent to Deny (NOIDs), and even outright denials.


Lawyers know the special challenges that are presented by each type of online form, and whether it would be advisable for someone to submit an application online or on a paper form instead. For instance, the N-400 Application for Naturalization requires persons to list every gap in employment and does not allow an applicant to list multiple current addresses. Meanwhile, neither of those problems are encountered when submitting a paper N-400 application.



5. Lawyers Are Not as Expensive as You May Believe


Unlike lawyers practicing in other areas of law, virtually all U.S. immigration lawyers provide flat fee rates for certain high demand services, such as Adjustment of Status. When one considers, (a) the amount of time that a case remains pending with USCIS, (sometimes as long as several years), (b) the opportunity costs that would result from setbacks and lengthy delays if even a small error affected a pending application, and (c), the lifetime benefits that are at stake, the services provided by immigration lawyers are actually very affordable.


For instance, if a self represented person received an Employment Authorization Document/Card a month or two late due to lack of professional assistance, the lost remuneration by itself would have made it worth it to have hired a lawyer from the beginning.



6. Forget the Anecdotes: Your Case May Not Be as Simple as Your Friend's Case


Too many people hear anecdotes from friends who have represented themselves on U.S. immigration applications, did not hire lawyers, and were approved without incident. While that's true, there are also many stories of people who listened to their friends and not only ended up with denials, but jeopardized their future abilities to live and work in the U.S.


It's not a good idea to assess your chances of prevailing on your immigration application based upon the anecdotes of friends with no legal training or expertise whatsoever. Your friends' self-education from the Internet will never adequately substitute for expertise acquired by immigration lawyers who have dedicated years of their lives to the field of U.S. immigration law.


Too many people consult lawyers and the first words out of their mouths are, "My case is simple/straightforward". The sad reality is that without legal training, your characterization of your case, whether simple or difficult, is meaningless. U.S. immigration law is highly complex, and even lawyers make errors on applications from time to time.



7. If USCIS Begins Probing the Application of a Self-Represented Individual, Many Lawyers Will Either Not Offer Representation Midstream or Charge Substantial Additional Fees to Do so


It’s not uncommon for people to frantically hunt for lawyers to represent them upon discovering that they previously provided incorrect answers on their USCIS petitions/applications. The problem with this strategy is that depending on the type of application that was submitted, many lawyers will not offer to represent someone midstream unless USCIS has indicated that some sort of adverse decision is forthcoming, in which case you can expect the lawyer to charge significantly higher fees for having to clean up the mess that was caused by previously foregoing professional assistance.



8. A Lawyer, Hired From the Beginning, Will Give You Advance Notice of the Consequences of Your Specific Answers

Just as lawyers counsel applicants to be truthful without worrying that their answers would lead to denials of their applications, lawyers also draw attention to the likely problems that certain responses could trigger, and chart out a strategy for minimizing the effects of those problems in the event that they do materialize.


9. Lawyers Will Prevent You From Answering Inconsistently on Subsequent Applications and Being Accused of Committing Misrepresentations

Whenever a person submits an application to USCIS, the officer crosschecks the responses against other responses from prior applications, even if they were submitted decades earlier. Any inconsistency may draw prompt and aggressive questioning by the interviewing officer, and it's not uncommon for persons in that situation to frantically call U.S. immigration lawyers in a desperate search for legal representation at any cost.


For example, if a person claims not to have been arrested for any reason on an application, and then flippantly discloses an arrest on a subsequent application, an arrest that predates both applications, it virtually guaranteed that the person's application would be placed under a microscope. The officer would want an explanation as to the inconsistent answers.


Similarly, if a person claims to have never joined the Chinese Communist Party (or paid any membership dues), but then later claims on a different application to have no longer been a member of the CCP as dues payments had been willfully stopped, the USCIS officer would find that never joining the CCP is inconsistent with halting dues payments to the CCP (which implies that the person was indeed a member of the CCP at some point in time).


These are just two examples of ways in which imperfect answers to questions on the USCIS forms can cause lots of problems for people who aren't represented by immigration lawyers.


10. You Will Have Professional Assistance While Your Application Is Pending

Some USCIS applications remain pending for as long as three years. It's prudent to have a professional lawyer with whom you can discuss your case at any time.

11. Your Lawyer Can Promptly Teleconference With a Live USCIS Agent on Your Behalf

Indeed, from rescheduling a biometrics appointment to requesting emergency international travel authorization, your lawyer can profoundly assist you with navigating a seeming emergency when things do not go as planned with USCIS, which regrettably happens more often than not. It is by no means a a rare occurrence for people to miss USCIS biometrics appointments because the notices were never delivered by USPS. Even if delivered, some appointment notices instruct people to appear at the wrong Application Support Center to have their fingerprints captured. In other cases, multiple notices are sent for various appointments, all of which may not be necessary. If any of these situations occur, lawyers can easily contact USCIS and expeditiously resolve any issues of concern.

12. Sometimes, Lawyers Can Immediately Email the Local USCIS Field Office

Some USCIS field offices have very good relationships with the immigration bar. These relationships are gold for both the lawyers and the clients who they represent. These connections allow lawyers to promptly send an email to a field office customer service representative, a section chief, or field office director, and resolve issues that unrepresented clients would have no chance resolving by themselves. For instance, lawyers have successfully canceled appointments by simply sending an email to the local field office.

13. Your Lawyer Will Have the Most Current Information on Constantly Changing USCIS Procedures

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State are constantly changing their procedures, especially after a U.S. Presidential election when a new Administration replaces the previous one. These changes could be colossal, and it's going to be difficult for a self-represented person to find the most recent and relevant information without the assistance of an immigration lawyer. In fact, such an impactful USCIS procedural change only just occurred in early 2023. While all immigrants were required to attend in-person interviews under the Trump Administration, the Biden Administration has extinguished many types of interviews, including interviews for newlyweds, people for whom USCIS interviews had been mandated for as long as anyone can remember.

14. USCIS Notices Are Frequently Lost in the Mail - Lawyers Receive Copies

Since lawyers will be copied on all of their clients' correspondences from USCIS, you will not be as detrimentally affected if USPS fails to deliver a USCIS notice that is addressed to you. Your lawyer can simply send you a copy of the notice, preventing any additional problems for you.

15. You Can Request That Important Cards/Documents Be Safely Delivered to Your Lawyer

This is happening with alarmingly increasing frequency. Applicants have reported not receiving important documents that USCIS had mailed to them, from green cards to employment cards (EADs) to Change of Status approvals, the lost items cause significant stress for applicants.


In the case of green cards, the applicant would need to submit an I-90 application and wait well over a year for a replacement card to arrive in the mail. In the case of employment cards (i.e. EADs), the applicant would need to submit a new I-765 application and also wait over a year for the new one to arrive. In the case of a Change of Status approval, the applicant would need to submit an I-824 with a fee of $465 and request that the original document be remailed, which typically takes at least six months.


However, persons who are represented by lawyers can simply request that important cards and original approval notices be addressed and delivered to the law firm, thereby reducing the likelihood that important documents become lost in the mail.

16. A Lawyer Can Promptly Tell You if Your Case Has Stalled

Since applications remain pending for months (and even years) with USCIS, it could be hard for an applicant to know if the processing of the application has stalled. It's smart to be represented by a lawyer, someone with whom you can check in from time to time in order to ensure that your application is still on track for timely adjudication. The quicker that you realize your application has stalled, the quicker that you and your attorney can put it back on track.

17. A Lawyer Can Immediately Grade You Upon the Conclusion of Your USCIS Interview

Many applicants attend their interview and leave without any idea as to how they fared on their interviews. Since a lawyer is the only person who is allowed to accompany you to your interview, not having a lawyer means that you will not have any idea as to how you performed on your interview until weeks, months, or even years later. This could prevent you from preparing evidence that you may need to respond to a forthcoming RFE or NOID, which you won't have a lot of time to answer. Having a head start on RFE and NOID preparation can make the difference between an approval and a denial.

18. A Lawyer Can Explain Seemingly Frightening RFEs, NOIDs, and Denials in Simple Terms. In 2023, lawyers are witnessing a sharp rise in the use of RFEs, NOIDs, and denials. This is happening as the Administration seeks to reduce the number of in-person interviews. Applicants are often frightened to receive a notice stating that USCIS intends to deny an application for U.S. Permanent Residence unless certain documents are returned and additional questions are comprehensively answered in as little as 30 days. Having a lawyer means that if this happens to you, it will likely be smooth sailing for you as opposed to a very stressful nightmare.



19. A Lawyer Refers Applicants to Service Providers as Needed


Besides lawyers, new immigrants may need other professionals to assist them, whether before immigrating to the U.S. (e.g. pre-immigration tax planning) or after being granted permanent residence (e.g. Estates lawyers, tax lawyers, accountants, etc.).


Immigration lawyers frequently suggest the types of professionals who an applicant may wish to consult for assistance.


20. A Good Lawyer Will Save You Massive Amounts of Stress.


The adjudication of USCIS applications has a tendency to really stress out foreigners. It's not surprising that this happens. When you have an overworked bureaucratic agency like USCIS, complicated immigration laws to enforce, numerous foreigners trying to game the system, and would-be immigrants waiting years for important lifetime benefits that will dictate where they will ultimately be allowed to live permanently and raise a family, it impossible to imagine how boatloads of stress would not be forthcoming. This is why it's a sound investment to have an immigration lawyer at your side, someone who deals with these issues for a living, day in, day out.


If you have a U.S. immigration issue, do not hesitate to reach out to The Murray Law Firm. We assist countless foreign nationals and we will be happy to personally assist you with your application as well. Send us an E-mail or call us at (888)354-6257.

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