The immigration process can be long and arduous. From filling out the correct immigration forms to compiling sufficient evidence to prove eligibility for relief, immigration attorneys are necessary. If you have overstayed a visitor visa or otherwise fallen out of status, you may want to consult someone who can help “fix your papers.” The same is true if you are undocumented and living or working “illegally” in the United States. Many intending immigrants with families in the United States do not know they have an outstanding deportation order from years ago that can be reinstated at any time. Most immigrants are unaware they were previously deported in their absence after not receiving a hearing notice from the immigration court. In these cases, the best immigration lawyers will help reopen your case and apply for the correct relief.
New immigration laws are not necessarily laws but executive orders. Getting protection under these laws by providing the correct evidence requires legal help. But successfully navigating the immigration process and avoiding deportation gives you the right to establish or maintain your life in the United States. Remember that the government agency responsible for removing you is the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS). With the U.S. federal government as your adversary, you will need knowledgeable immigration attorneys to fight back. Obtaining legal permanent resident (LPR) status (green card) and naturalizing to become a U.S. Citizen (USC) is not easy. When your ability to remain in the country is at stake, immigration attorney costs are well worth it.
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On the path to becoming a United States citizen, getting a green card is the first step for most. There are many ways to get a green card, your age, marital status, family situation and occupation all contribute.
Receiving a notice of deportation (Notice to Appear, NTA) means immigration authorities believe you qualify for deportation. They are not always correct, and even then, there a numerous defenses.
If you want to legally stay in the United States, asylum is an option but it can be complex for some. Whether for your job, your family or whatever is important to you, we will fight for your asylum rights.
The main difference between a green card and a visa is that a green card is meant to be permanent while a visa is temporary. Ensure you get the correct visa by hiring an lawyer that understands immigration law.
O’Flaherty Law is proud to provide legal services to numerous immigrants. We believe in accessibility and offer free initial consultations. Our comprehensive list of services includes:
At O’Flaherty Law, our immigration attorneys keep abreast of new immigration laws that can benefit you and represent the interests of you and your family in finding relief.
The purpose of a consultation is to determine whether our firm is a good fit for your legal needs. Although we often discuss expected results and costs, our attorneys do not give legal advice unless and until you choose to retain us. We take your legal matters very seriously, which is why with each consultation, we strive to ensure you feel confident about the future of your case.
No matter where you are in the immigration process, you can expect world-class service at O’Flaherty Law. This includes personal client contact, reliable communication, and diligence in pursuing your immigration claim. Expect our immigration lawyers to push government agencies and negotiate with DHS where necessary to obtain legal status or stop deportation. Following the initial consultation, our immigration attorneys will:
Using the wrong forms or filling out incorrect information can have disastrous consequences. Filing a frivolous asylum, for example, can forever bar you from certain types of immigration relief. Most immigration judges will not allow respondents to represent themselves in court, so complex are proceedings. Knowledgeable immigration lawyers will ask you a series of questions and balance numerous factors to solve your problem.
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is the “legacy” agency that was dissolved in the merger with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to become today’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Today, INS no longer exists. Rather, ICE patrols the borders and immigration detention centers while working under the umbrella of DHS. DHS, in turn, is the immigration enforcement arm under the Department of Justice, headed by the Attorney General. Immigration attorneys will often refer to the legacy agency INS when citing eligibility for or exceptions to relief prior to the enactment of new immigration laws in the late 1990s. Prior INS enforcement also provides context for certain procedures now executed by ICE and DHS.
Completing and filing the correct immigration forms is essential to this brand of “administrative” law. The forms for different types of immigration relief constantly change. Both USCIS and EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review) require the most current versions and can even reject older forms, further delaying the immigration process. You can find the version and date at the bottom of each form. There are multiple pages of different immigration forms, but some common examples include:
The forms mentioned above are filed with USCIS. Carefully follow the instructions to send the forms to one of the several lockboxes listed. You will want to consult an immigration lawyer to properly fill out the correct forms and file them alone or in conjunction with others to expedite service at USCIS. Forms for the EOIR or immigration court, on the other hand, are completely different. Relief from deportation before an immigration judge requires forms that include:
Form names differ depending on where you are in the immigration process. At USCIS, for example, you would use Form AR-11 to change your address, but not when facing deportation in court. Protection under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is likewise requested on Form I-360 when filed with USCIS but by checking the second box on the EOIR-42B form requesting non-LPR cancellation of removal in court. An immigration attorney can help you file the correct immigration forms with the right agency to avoid denials of relief.
Whatever your reason is for wanting a visa, you should first determine if you need one. Some countries don't require application for a non-immigrant visa to under the United States if you're stay will be less than 90 days. If you do need a visa, your next step is choosing the correct visa type. There are many types of visas, broken down between Non-immigrant visas and immigrant visas.
Visas fall into two categories: non-immigrant visas (NIVs) and immigrant visas. NIVs are for those who do not plan on immigrating to the United States. Rather, they allow foreigners to work in the United States temporarily and need to be renewed every one to four years. Common NIVs awarded to foreigners ranging from visitors to skilled workers include:
Many NIVs have “caps” meaning only a certain number are awarded each year. H-1B caps are notoriously limited despite being reserved for fields requiring “specialized knowledge.” NIVs are also fixed on purpose. When the purpose of the exchange expires, so does the visa. B-2 visas, for instance, only last six months. After that, you start to accrue “unlawful presence.”
Unlike NIVs, immigrant visas show an intent to remain in the United States. They are divided into family-based visas or employment-based visas, depending on who is “sponsoring” or promising financial support for the applicant. Immigrant visas are for those planning to become LPRs or USCs. Family sponsored immigrant visa categories include:
IR1, CR1 Immediate Relative Spouse of USC
Like family-based visas, employment-sponsored visas contemplate permanent resident status in the United States. Companies “sponsor” foreign employees and later, in conjunction with Form I-485, allow these workers to immigrate to the United States. Employment-based visas may require certification by the U.S. Department of Labor and are grouped by “preference,” with some taking priority over others:
E1/E2 First priority workers (highly specialized skill)
Whereas adjustment through family visas is “backlogged” for highly-impacted countries—Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines—employment-sponsored visas, despite being “capped,” are not. In fact, beneficiaries of employment-sponsored visas can request “premium processing” of their applications, which fast-tracks a decision upon payment of a fee. A trusted immigration lawyer will know which type of visa best serves your needs.
Applying for a green card usually requires completion of Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Legal Permanent Resident (LPR). The adjustment to LPR may be accomplished by any of the methods above, whether before USCIS or EOIR. Along with Form I-485, the applicant must pass a medical exam (Form I-693) and show proof of financial responsibility (I-864 Affidavit of Support). These forms exclude certain immigrants with communicable diseases and potential drains to the U.S. economy by disallowing welfare benefits.
Naturalization describes the process of becoming a USC. LPRs can apply for naturalization using Form N-400 and taking the citizenship test. The exam, conducted by USCIS officers, will require some knowledge of U.S. history or civics and basic knowledge of the English language. In addition, applicants must demonstrate they do not pose a threat to national security by having belonged to certain criminal groups or previously engaging in specific “disqualifying” crimes. Once applicants pass the test, they take an oath to swear allegiance to the United States and receive a certificate that contains the date, time, and place of naturalization.
Employment immigration is discussed in greater detail under “Immigrant Visas” and refers to sponsorship by employers. The principal difference between employment and individual immigration is who pays for the immigration law firm. In general, corporations who employ skilled labor “sponsor” their workers and apply for visas using their legal department. This process requires that the employer determine the prevailing wage for similar labor and follow proper selection techniques that ensure immigrants are not taking jobs from American workers.
Individual immigration may refer to “self-petitions” in which petitioners do not need an employer or family member to sponsor them. They can petition themselves, as in the case of VAWA applicants battered by USC/LPR spouses, parents, or children. In employment-based immigration, certain NIV holders can petition themselves for EB-1A status by showing extraordinary ability in specialized fields and earning a salary that meets the minimum criteria. When in deportation proceedings, individuals are not entitled to a free immigration lawyer but will be given a list of pro-bono organizations that can usher them through the process. This is usually provided after an asylum interview or at the first hearing in court.
Deportation is the process of removing a person from the United States. It is used interchangeably with the term “removal.” Except for cases of expedited removal at the border, which bans people from re-entering the United States for 5 or 10 years, aliens expressing a credible fear of returning to their home country are entitled to a formal hearing before an immigration judge. The deportation process begins with DHS (Department of Homeland Security) filing a notice to appear (NTA) with the immigration court and attendance at all master calendar hearings leading up to the individual hearing on the merits of a claim.
Aliens who fail to apprise the court when they change address may not receive the NTA or notice of hearing, resulting in deportation in their absence. In their applications and at the individual hearing, aliens must show eligibility for the claimed relief by proving:
In addition, the applicant asking for relief from removal must not have been convicted of certain disqualifying crimes such as drug trafficking or alien smuggling. Crimes of moral turpitude or acts seen as inherently base or vile may also bar relief. Even with no disqualifying crimes, immigration judges can still find the respondent not credible or lacking “good moral character,” resulting in an unfavorable exercise of discretion.
This discretionary factor is important in cancellation of removal cases where the applicant must prove 10 years of physical presence, good moral character, and hardship resulting in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to qualifying USC or LPR relatives upon the alien’s removal from the United States. You will want an experienced immigration attorney to represent you in court and meet the high legal burden necessary to gain legal status over objections by DHS.
At O’Flaherty Law, we want you to feel good about how your case is handled. Communication between you and the business and contract team at O’Flaherty will always be open and timely. You should feel free to bring any questions or concerns you have to us, but we have found that many clients have the same questions. We have provided the most frequently asked questions and answers below for you.
The cost will depend on what type of relief you are seeking and the agency responsible for deciding that application. All petitions, except applications for asylum, usually require a government filing fee, biometrics (fingerprint) fee, and postage. Representation in immigration court will cost more.
The price range for help filing out immigration forms and throughout the immigration process can range from $1,000 to $5,000 or more. Expect to pay at least $1,000 in government fees alone. The best immigration lawyers are not always the most expensive. Ask around before determining which immigration law firm best suits your needs.
There are two pathways to asylum: affirmative asylum and defensive asylum. Affirmative asylum is the process for applying for asylum before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after entry into the United States before deportation proceedings have been commenced. Defensive asylum is filed as a strategy for defending yourself against a pending deportation. In order to be successful, you must be able to show that deportation to your country of origin will result in fear of persecution
Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) or Green Card holders are entitled to apply for asylum at any time, not just within one year of entry, as a defense to Removal or Deportation.
Yes, you can file for a green card yourself, but make sure you know which other forms to file with Form I-485 Application to Adjust Status. You may want to consolidate this with your Form I-130 Family Immigrant Visa or other forms to obtain work authorization and advance parole, if available. You may also need a waiver in certain cases. The safest option to ensure your immigration forms are filled out correctly, supported by the proper evidence, and filed at the right address is to seek the help of a professional immigration law firm. Make sure you are not being scammed by a paralegal or “notario” posing as a licensed immigration attorney.
Yes, you will need an immigration lawyer. It is impossible to take advantage of new immigration laws that promise relief without one. Deciding on the correct evidence to submit with the proper forms can prove equally challenging.
Even if you succeed by following the example of someone who got legal status without a lawyer, every case is different, and repeating the same steps could result in denial or land you in court. This is not to say that immigration lawyers are faultless, but you need someone you can trust to go over immigration forms with you before signing. Any fraud in an earlier application can result in serious problems later.
The four immigration statuses are temporary visitors, non-immigrant or immigrant visa holders, legal permanent residents, and U.S. citizens. Those who enter the U.S. without inspection (EWI)—meaning they were not admitted or paroled with a valid visa or entry document—should put “EWI” for immigration status on certain court forms.
Naturalization requires a certain amount of time as an LPR prior to applying for citizenship. How long it takes to get LPR status, on the other hand, can vary. Generally, people wait three to five years prior to applying for naturalization, depending on their circumstances. Naturalization requires filing Form N-400 or similar immigration form for children, supporting documents, an interview that tests basic knowledge of civics and the English language, and an oath.
It depends. With the pandemic and slower processing times, some naturalizations take over a year. The wait time should be shorter. If you are subject to a “permanent bar” from having left and returning to the United States multiple times, ask a skilled immigration lawyer if you qualify for certain waivers of inadmissibility.
Similarly, if you entered once without inspection or overstayed a visa, you may need a “pardon” to interview for a provisional waiver at the U.S. embassy in your home country before returning “legally” to the United States. Many LPRs remain green-card holders for decades without applying for citizenship. But naturalization can speed up processing times if you are trying to help a family member immigrate to the U.S.