If you’re in the immigration process, you know the system is very tricky and can be confusing. Trying to get information from a government agency often seems futile. The forms to fill out can be more than three dozen pages long.
As such, the number of people looking to prey on that confusion is limitless. It’s very difficult to distinguish between people who are legitimate and those who are just trying to get as much money from you as possible.
Many people do not realize how bad the situation is until they receive that notice to appear for removal proceedings before an immigration judge because the forms they signed were not correct or a clear law was not followed. By hiring someone who is only out for your money, you could be tagged for removal even if you should qualify for a green card or work authorization.
The moral of the story is, make sure that you are using a knowledgeable attorney who has experience, and is someone that you can trust. Here are a few things to look out for when seeking professional assistance with your immigration matter:
- Make sure that the person you are meeting with is a licensed attorney not subject to any disciplinary proceedings. Ask for the attorney’s bar number and state/territory they are licensed in so you can look them up to make sure they are actually licensed and not subject to any disciplinary proceedings. If they are not a licensed attorney in good standing with their state bar or an accredited representative, they are not authorized to assist you with your immigration case. You can also check the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) list for all disciplined practitioners.
- Review the forms before signing and never sign a blank form. Make sure that you see the forms being submitted on your behalf before they are submitted. If you need a translator, ask for one or bring your own. Never sign a blank form or a blank piece of paper as you may not know what is submitted on your behalf and it could negatively impact your case.
- You should never be charged for the form itself. It’s OK to be charged for filing fees and for an attorney’s time to prepare forms, but you should never be charged for the actual form itself. This is a sign you are dealing with someone who is looking to take advantage of you. All forms are available online for free.
- Get a receipt for any payment made. If you think you were scammed, this is an essential piece of evidence for your case.
- Do not let your attorney keep your original documents. The attorney should always make copies of your personal documents, such as a passport or driver’s license, while you keep the original documents. If an original is needed, the immigration official will ask to see it at an interview or hearing. Do not submit originals.
- Do not trust anyone who claims to know about secret laws. Any new laws or regulations are public and all legitimate immigration attorneys will be up to speed on any new laws.
- Do not pay to be put on a waiting list: There is no such thing as a “waiting list,” but it sounds legitimate. It is not.
- Track your case. It’s important to understand immigration cases take a long time, but you can track your case with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. Your attorney will provide a receipt notice from the agency that can be used to see your status at USCIS.gov. Plus, if you are in removal proceedings, there is a hotline that can be used to track the status of your case and to see when you have your next hearing date.
If you try to use these and nothing comes up and the person you used to assist with your application or who says they are representing you in Court does not answer your calls within a reasonable amount of time (at least a week), you may need to get a second opinion.
- Watch out when using a notario publico. In many countries, the use of a notary public or notario publico is almost the same as using a lawyer. That is not the case in the United States. These individuals will charge excessive fees and could even subject you to removal from the United States.
Unfortunately, many people have been harmed by the use of notaries. They thought they were doing the right thing because it was an individual they trusted or they heard of someone who was able to get a work permit. They did not get a work permit and ended up in removal proceedings because an asylum application was filed or other type of application that the person did not qualify for.
One of the key issues is cost – but if the cost seems to be too good to be true, it almost always is. Yes, an attorney costs more upfront than a notario or another scammer.
However, in the long run, getting a competent Immigration attorney to assist you will save you money as you will need to pay for an attorney to fix the mess that is made, if it is fixable.
Remember, you do get what you pay for. Don’t become a cautionary tale. Many law firms will provide payment plans to assist those on a budget. Don’t let the cost of representation push you into making a decision that could negatively impact the rest of your life.
The attorneys at The Orlando Law Group represent immigration clients in Orlando, Waterford Lakes, Altamonte Springs, Winter Garden, Lake Nona, Sanford, St. Cloud, Kissimmee, and throughout central Florida.
If you have a question about your Immigration case or whether you may have any immigration benefits available to you, please reach out to our office at 407-512-4394, fill out our online contact form or save this information in case you ever find yourself or a loved one needing to use it. We provide representation and legal services for both businesses and individuals alike.
If you have questions about anything discussed in this article or other legal matters, give our office a call at 407-512-4394 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. We have an office conveniently located at 12301 Lake Underhill Rd, Suite 213, Orlando, FL 32828, as well as offices in Seminole, Osceola and West Orange counties to assist you.