DEAR Attorney Gurfinkel:
I’ve been told by friends that having an attorney handle your immigration case is a sign that you are “guilty” or not entitled to the immigration benefit. After all, if you’re entitled or eligible, then why do you need an attorney?
I thought my immigration case was simple and straightforward, and I could handle it myself. Besides, I thought it would make me look guilty to hire an attorney, and I would also save money and attorney fees.
But now my case has been dragging on for years, I’ve gone to multiple interviews, USCIS keeps asking for more evidence, and when I try to find out what’s going on, I can’t get a clear or straight answer or explanation. I don’t know what to do.
Is it true USCIS will hold it against a person if the person has an attorney represent them and handle their case?
Very truly yours,
It is not true that hiring an attorney to handle your case or represent you is a sign of guilt. In my opinion, having an attorney represent you greatly increases your chances of success. I believe the USCIS has no problems with attorneys handling a person’s case, as it may even make USCIS’s job much easier.
An attorney knows the law and the requirements for the particular immigration benefit you are applying for. The attorney can evaluate your case and knows the necessary and relevant supporting documents, cite the applicable law, and package your application so that it meets the appropriate requirements.
An attorney can accompany you to any interview or hearing to make sure there’s no misunderstandings or miscommunication resulting in a denial or deportation/removal proceedings. The attorney can also argue or discuss the legal issues with the officer, demonstrating your entitlement to the immigration benefit you are applying for.
If the officer has any questions or suspicions, the attorney can help gather the necessary evidence to address those questions or suspicions and demonstrate your eligibility.
When a person represents themselves (and doesn’t have attorney assistance) they may not know what the requirements are, and may provide documents that are not necessary or may actually be harmful to their case, or they don’t include necessary documents, or fill out the forms incorrectly.
Homeland Security is taking a very tough and aggressive position on immigration, with policy memorandum stating that cases can be denied outright if lacking certain documents or required information. After that, the person could be placed in deportation. So, it is not safe to assume that, “I’ll try it on my own, and if I get denied, then I’ll go to an attorney.” By then, it may be too late.
One of the most important things in a person’s life is their immigration status. It means their future (and their family’s future) in the U.S., working at a well-paying job, the ability to travel to the Philippines and back, etc. With something as important as that, a person should not be looking for ways to cut corners or save money by trying to get status by themselves, and possibly messing up their case.
Simply put, having an attorney handling your case is not a sign of guilt or wrongdoing. It simply shows you want it done correctly because you’re entitled to the benefit.
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Michael J. Gurfinkel has been an attorney for over 35 years and is licensed, and an active member of the State Bars of California and New York. All immigration services are provided by, or under the supervision of, an active member of the State Bar of California. Each case is different and results may depend on the facts of the particular case. The information and opinions contained herein (including testimonials, “Success Stories”, endorsements and re-enactments) are of a general nature, and are not intended to apply to any particular case, and do not constitute a prediction, warranty, guarantee or legal advice regarding the outcome of your legal matter. No attorney-client relationship is, or shall be, established with any reader.
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