Benefits of Hiring an Immigration Attorney
Updated: Feb 4
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An immigration attorney can help you prepare and file legal documents and appear with you before immigration officials. But, no law requires you to have an immigration attorney. If you are sophisticated enough, you may be able to handle an immigration matter yourself. Even if you can’t understand the matter yourself, someone other than a lawyer may be able to assist you, for a more affordable price, in your immigration case. Federal law allows the following persons, to represent you in immigration matters:
1. Attorneys. If a person is licensed as an attorney in any state, territory, possession, or Commonwealth of the U.S. (or the District of Columbia) he may represent you.
2. Accredited representatives. If the government has “accredited” a person to represent clients in immigration matters, and the accredited representative works for a “recognized organization” (that is, an organization that the Department of Justice has recognized), then the accredited representative may represent you in immigration matters. Click here to see a list of recognized organizations and accredited representatives in each state.
3. Law students. A law student may represent you if he is being supervised by a faculty member, licensed attorney, or accredited representative in a legal aid program conducted by a law school or non-profit organization. You may not pay a law student to represent you.
4. Law school graduates who are not licensed attorneys. A law school graduate, who is not a licensed attorney, may represent you if he is supervised by a licensed attorney or accredited representative. You may not pay a law school graduate, who is not a licensed attorney, to represent you.
5. Reputable individuals. The law says that “any reputable individual of good moral character” may represent you in immigration matters, if:
· The person has a pre-existing relationship with you (for example, a relative, neighbor, clergyman, business associate, or friend);
· You do not pay him anything;
· He does not regularly engage in immigration or naturalization practice; and
· The government official, before whom he wishes to appear, allows him to represent you.
6. Accredited officials. A government official of the government of your home country may represent you, if he appears solely in his official capacity.
Only the persons listed above, may represent you in immigration matters. There are a number of unscrupulous persons, who claim to represent people on immigration issues, but are not actually authorized to do so. If a person tells you that he can represent you on your immigration case, ask what his qualifications are. If he says he is a licensed attorney, ask what state bar licenses him. You may then contact the state bar to see if he is licensed; click here to see a list of the state bar licensing authorities, and how to contact them.
Also: if your case is in federal court, rather than immigration court, only an attorney can represent you. A non-lawyer can’t represent you in federal court. While you’re allowed to represent yourself in federal court, federal court is so complicated that I would never recommend that anyone represent themselves in federal court. (Federal courts are part of the judicial branch of the U.S. government; immigration courts are part of the executive branch. If you are unsure of whether your case is in federal court or immigration court, ask your lawyer or other person representing you.)
If your immigration case is not handled properly, you can lose your right to enter, or remain in, the U.S. Don’t proceed without proper representation!