What Should You Look For When You Are Seeking To Hire An Immigration Lawyer or Immigration Attorney To Handle Your Immigration Law Case?
There seem to be so many people out there that prepare immigration visas and work permits and visa applications. But how do you know that they are good? Since this is a very personal process don’t you want to be sure that you hire the very best immigration attorney? How do you know if you are hiring the very best immigration lawyer(s) to assist you, your family or your employer with a process that is so incredibly complex and personal?
There are many people that purport to do immigration work on the internet. Some advertise very cheap prices. Should you shop a process like this based upon price? When you have a particular ailment do you seek the cheapest doctor you can find or do you look for the very best doctor that you can find who is capable of providing you (and your family) with the very best information, the very best service and the very best ability to respond to your medical concerns? Picking an immigration lawyer to assist you should be no different.
People around the world strive to obtain legal status within the United States for several personal and business reasons; however, obtaining this goal starts with choosing the very best immigration lawyer for you. Nowadays the world seems to be filled with immigration lawyers and mobility agents, so where do you start?
What factors should you consider when deciding which immigration lawyer is the very best one to represent you and the members of your family?
The first thing to consider is if the law firm or the immigration lawyer that you are considering has a specialty in practicing immigration and nationality law. Immigration and nationality law in the U.S. is the federal law or a “federal practice”, meaning you (or your family member or employer) can choose a lawyer from any U.S. State regardless of your country of origin. This means that you have many more options from which to choose.
For example, the immigration and nationality lawyers at the NPZ Law Group have clients throughout the U.S. and the world. While many of our Law Firm’s clients do like to come to see us in our offices, this is not always necessary. Technology has made the ability to be able to serve clients throughout the U.S. and the world a matter of day-to-day practice.
Going back to the issue of specialty in the immigration law field, you will want to check out the various specialties that are handled by a particular immigration lawyer or law firm. Instead of picking the largest law firm that handles a volume of cases, it may be in your best interest to find an immigration and nationality law firm that focuses on specific immigration law area. Immigration law is a very complex area and it seems to be constantly changing as immigration law is a “political football” that tends to change constantly depending upon such things as the state of the economy, perceptions on Wall Street, the need for STEM workers in the U.S., the desire for the U.S. to open its doors to Foreign National – Alien – Entrepreneurs, and/or the desire or need for temporary skilled or unskilled foreign national labor. As the area of immigration and nationality law continues to change, law firms have continued to become specialized with regard to the types of immigration law practice that they undertake.
For example, some immigration law firms concentrate their practice(s) in the area of family-based immigration law. These law firms or practitioners sometimes handle waivers and provisional waivers of inadmissibility, CSPA, Humanitarian Reinstatements and some do not. Other immigration law firms and immigration practitioners concentrate their practices in the area of business immigration law. These firms focus on assisting the employer and their Human Resources staff to understand the nuances of temporary nonimmigrant transfers such as H-1B, L-1, O-1, P-3 visa petitions, etc. These immigration and nationality law firms also assist with permanent transfers of foreign national to the U.S. using pre-certified green card classifications such as the National Interest Waiver (NIW), the Outstanding Researcher, Multinational Executive or Nurses in the Schedule A, Group I classification. These immigration law firms or immigration law practitioners may assist with permanent transfers of foreign nationals to the U.S. using the PERM Labor Certification process.
However, now that the business immigration law arena has become much more complex, some business immigration law firms have expanded their levels of service so that they can assist employers with H-1B Site Visits, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Labor Condition Application (LCA) investigations and I-9 Form Employment Eligibility Verification Audit investigations.
Of course, assisting clients with such demanding projects requires a great deal of manpower. Be sure to assess the number of lawyers and legal professionals in a law firm and seek to understand whether the immigration practitioner that you are considering has the right amount of support either from other lawyers or professional staff so that they can properly attend to the cases that they handle in their office including yours.
The next question you should ask yourself is, … will my case be handled by an immigration lawyer or an immigration attorney or by an immigration law professional in the firm? Oftentimes, immigration lawyers have support staff that work closely with them to prepare documents. These individuals are oftentimes referred to as immigration specialists or immigration paralegals. Large immigration law firms tend to delegate the majority of their cases to immigration paralegals. As such, you want to be sure that when you call with questions you will receive answers from a lawyer.
While the immigration paralegal or immigration specialist may be your primary contact at a law firm, you will want to be sure that the advice that you are receiving is vetted by the immigration lawyer who is personally responsible for your case. As mentioned before, immigration law is quite personal and complex, therefore if you are paying for the specialization of an attorney you will want to be sure you are getting just that.
In some law offices, the immigration and nationality law function/work is actually “outsourced” completely. This means that your important and personal immigration law matter is being handled by an offsite immigration paralegal or immigration preparer who works for some other organization. Some of these folks are in the U.S. (and some are actually outside the U.S.). Many large corporate organizations actually outsource their immigration work so that it can be done in a very inexpensive manner.
Some offices use an offsite paralegal specialist who prepares the documentation and information for the lawyer or law firm to file with the USCIS. It is important for you, as the potential client, to understand if your work is being handled by the law office onsite or if your work is being outsourced by the law firm.
The reasons why it may be important whether or not your immigration work is done by the law office itself or whether it is outsourced may be: (1) outsourcing impacts the cost for the services and the client should be charged a fair fee for the immigration law services; and (2) the ability of the immigration lawyer to respond to queries on an immediate basis may be impacted by whether or not the matter is outsourced; and (3) the extent to which the law office assigned the matter has taken appropriate steps to protect the client confidences that may flow to the outsourced organization. Outsourcing immigration and nationality work raises a variety of ethical issues that are beyond the scope of this article.
Oftentimes, immigration lawyers work closely with their paralegal staff to get the cases done. The immigration lawyer that you speak to should be able to explain the immigration and nationality protocols in his/her office and to allow you to have access to the lawyer as well as the lawyer’s staff.
For example, at NPZ (VISASERVE), we have a “three-points-of-contact-rule” (TM). This means that any given client of our firm has access to at least three (3) people who are working on or who know about the immigration and nationality law case that has been assigned to the law office. This protocol was established because our world continues to be complex and it becomes more difficult to reach the lawyer directly. For this reason, it is a “best practice” in any immigration and nationality law office to allow a client to have multiple persons with whom they can communicate about the status of their case(s).
Additionally, because the immigration and nationality law practice is so personal to the client and his/her family members, it is also a “best practice” for immigration and nationality law offices to allow access to lawyers on a 24×7 basis. Given the expansion of technology and its ongoing interplay with the immigration and nationality law, this “best practice” can be achieved with relative ease both to the immigration attorney and to the client (and/or the members of his/her family).
As referenced above (with regard to the practice areas of the immigration law firm or practitioner that you have identified), once you have found a law firm or practitioner that specializes in immigration and nationality law, it is now important to learn about the specific cases that this law firm can handle. Immigration practitioners and immigration and nationality law firms work on work visas for academic and business purposes, intracompany transferees, crimmigration matters, NAFTA work visas, family petitions, green cards, citizenship applications (nationality issues), removal defense, asylum, as well as spousal and dependent visas for families of employees. Once you know what kind of matter it is that you are seeking to do, you should be sure that the law firm that you want to hire to assist you with your case has the experience required to successfully handle your type of case.
For example, it is not uncommon for the immigration and nationality lawyers at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C. to spend a great deal of time speaking with Human Resources Professionals, Managers and Executives before undertaking to prepare an H-1B nonimmigrant work visa for a potential professional and specialty occupation employee.
Or, for example, to answer questions that a Human Resources Professional may have about why the H-1B visa that they are applying for may or may not be “subject to the cap”. Also, our immigration lawyers will oftentimes spend a great deal of time helping the staff of potential client organizations to understand what their DOL obligations may be with regard to the hiring of a prospective H-1B nonimmigrant worker.
Oftentimes, many of the issues that impinge on the immigration project significantly impact the prospective employer. The same is the case with regard to the sponsorship of an L-1A intracompany manager/executive, an L-1B specialized knowledge transferee, an O-1B artist visa petitioner or an E-1 Treaty Trader or an E-2 Treaty Investor.
Every type of immigration issue presents a myriad of different problems and/or issues, and the prospective immigration client (be it the individual or the organization) needs to be sure that they are able to locate an immigration and nationality attorney specialized and experienced in dealing with the specific subset of issues particular to the particular case at hand. This concept aligns closely with the ethical obligation of the immigration and nationality lawyer that is referred to as his/her “level of competence”. Oftentimes, this inquiry is manifest in the response to the layman’s question: Does the immigration and nationality law firm that you are seeking to engage have a good reputation?
Once you are aware of your specific needs in the immigration and nationality law arena, it is always a good idea to do some additional research! Ask family members or other members in your community who have used an immigration and nationality attorney for references.
However, be sure to check to see that the lawyer that your friend or a family member has used (or recommends) has actually performed services similar to the ones that he/she will be performing for you. For example, if you have a removal defense matter (one in which you have been served with a Notice To Appear (NTA) and you are being removed from the U.S.) you may want to be asking about a referral from someone other than a friend or family member who used an immigration and nationality lawyer or practitioner for an H-1B visa.
Of course, there is always the online search for an immigration and nationality lawyer. Going online to search for an immigration and nationality law firm is a great idea but you need to be aware that (while the internet has a great deal of good information) it also contains a great deal of bad information. You may want to go online and read reviews. Reviews can certainly be helpful.
However, the reviews should be able to answer such questions for you like … did the immigration and nationality law firm handle cases similar to yours? How did the law firm handle cases like yours? You will also want to look for positive feedback as that would be extremely important in helping you to decide if the law firm is equipped to handle your case in a timely, competent and cost-effective manner. Consider looking for immigration and nationality lawyers listed on SUPERLAWYERS, AVVO, LAWYERS.COM, and check out GOOGLE Reviews and other legal service rating sites. While some of these sites are self-serving, they do give lists of immigration practitioners in the field. Additionally, many immigration and nationality lawyers (like the NPZ Law Group) continue to post comments (in real time) by clients on their websites.
Finally, and importantly, it is always a good idea to ask whether the law firm that you are seeking to hire speaks your language. A “competent” immigration lawyer is required to “communicate” effectively with its immigration law clients. This issue presents two layers of complexity. First, it is important to be sure that you are comfortable with the immigration lawyer that will be handling the case. Is he/she compassionate? Does the immigration attorney make you feel comfortable? Is the immigration and nationality lawyer speaking too much legalese?
Generally, lawyers that speak in a manner that is way too complex for you to understand probably do not understand the issues him/herself. It continues to be our experience that the best immigration lawyers are the ones that can slowly and carefully and effectively explain the legal issues that the client has to the client and they can also effectively communicate the options that the individual may have to solve his/her immigration and nationality problems.
Sometimes this is done in the client’s native language using an interpreter. Immigration and nationality lawyers that use interpreters in their office should be sure that the staff members are apprised of the special and “secret” nature of the “attorney-client communication” and seek to be sure that the staff members handle the matter with the same compassionate care and concern that he/she has for the client’s immigration and nationality law issues.
For example, it is often the case that individuals who want to receive Naturalization in the U.S. have some form of disability. If they do then it may be possible to obtain a waiver of the Naturalization interview by submitting a Disability Waiver for the Naturalization Application using the N-648 Form. This process includes a very fine line of communicating with the client, the client’s family member(s) and oftentimes a medical professional responsible for the preparation of the N-648. Including client confidences, there are HIPAA issues that inhere in the immigration and nationality project for this client which need to be appropriately addressed by the immigration and nationality lawyer. The best immigration and nationality lawyer is the one who is able to spot these issues and to address them in an appropriate manner.
Further to the issue of “communication” with the immigration lawyer and his/her client is the issue that oftentimes foreign language barriers can be tricky in the world of immigration and nationality law. As mentioned before, immigration law presents many nuances to the layman and to immigration law professionals alike. The immigration and nationality practice area requires an understanding of layers and layers of detail and complexity.
The layers often cross into other areas of the law such as international taxation, estate planning for foreign nationals, employment, and labor law, intellectual property, criminal law, etc. Having an immigration and nationality law attorney or an immigration and nationality law firm who speaks your language and is able to communicate plainly and concisely is important for you to be able to understand the nuances of your case. Also, the assistance of legal professionals that speak your language can be helpful for researching and strengthening your case. A law firm that possesses immigration and nationality lawyers with this asset can be extremely valuable to you.
Your success in obtaining legal immigration status in the United States depends upon the immigration and nationality law firm or lawyer you chose at the beginning of what is going to be a very complex journey. It is in your best interests to find an immigration and nationality lawyer who will be creative and one who is determined.
For more information about choosing the best immigration and nationality lawyer or the best immigration and nationality law firm to assist you, your friends or your family members or your Human Resources staff, please feel free to contact us at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C. (also known as VISASERVE) by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 201-670-0006 (x107) or (x104). We have offices in NY, in NJ affiliated offices in India and Canada.