No, an individual is not required to have an attorney for an immigration court hearing. However, an individual’s immigration status may depend on it. Having a lawyer is very important for any immigration proceedings.

There are several independent court systems in the United States. Every state and the federal government operate their own courts. Many individuals are not aware that there are also courts that are dedicated to special topics. For example, an immigration court specializes in immigration and only handles those types of cases.

The Immigration Court is an administrative court that is run by the United States Department of Justice. There are more than 50 immigration courts and 200 immigration judges throughout the United States.

These courts are located in places where a high immigration population exists. There are currently immigration courts in 27 states and 2 territories. The states and territories include:

  • Arizona;
  • California;
  • Colorado;
  • Connecticut;
  • Florida;
  • Georgia;
  • Hawaii;
  • Illinois;
  • Louisiana;
  • Maryland;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Michigan;
  • Minnesota;
  • Missouri;
  • Nebraska;
  • Nevada;
  • New Jersey;
  • New York;
  • North Carolina;
  • Northern Mariana Islands;
  • Ohio;
  • Oregon;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • Puerto Rico;
  • Tennessee;
  • Texas;
  • Utah;
  • Virginia; and
  • Washington.

In addition to the permanent locations listed above, an immigration court may set up a temporary location or temporary court. These temporary courts are typically located in cities where there is a large number of immigration cases but there are not enough cases to justify establishing a permanent immigration court in that area.

An immigration court is responsible for judging immigration cases. The duties of the court include:

  • Granting foreign nationals legal status in the United States;
  • Deporting or removing foreign nationals who have committed an immigration crime in the United States; and
  • Hearing appeals from foreign nationals who are seeking asylum in the United States.

In addition to hearing immigration cases in court, an immigration court just may hold a hearing at a Department of Homeland Security detention center. The judge may also hold hearings at federal, state, and local correctional facilities.

Many individuals choose not to hire an attorney to assist them in Immigration Court. Even though an individual is permitted to represent themselves before the court, it may not be a good idea. The immigration process is extremely complex and the rules and requirements are ever changing. The immigration court recommends that individuals hire an attorney to handle their immigration issues.

Why Should I Consider Hiring an Attorney?

One of the most important reasons to consider hiring an attorney for immigration court is that the opponent, the United States, will be represented by an attorney during the hearing. This attorney most likely only handles that type of case and will therefore be experienced. An individual will likely feel much more comfortable and less intimidated by the process if they have their own attorney on their side.

In addition, because immigration and nationality laws are so complex, it is important to hire an experienced immigration attorney. Immigration court decisions may be life-altering, and possibly include deportation. Because of this, it is extremely important to have the assistance of an attorney.

An immigrant’s right to counsel is different in an immigration than in a United States criminal court. Every individual has the right to have an attorney represent them in immigration court, but the government is not required to provide them with one. In other words, the individual has the right to have a lawyer of their own that they hire and pay for.

What are the Benefits of Having a Good Immigration Attorney?

There are numerous benefits of hiring an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney will have a comprehensive knowledge of immigration laws and an understanding of the immigration process.

Many immigration applications are denied each year. Having an attorney’s assistance greatly increases the chances an individual’s application will be accepted.

An immigration attorney can provide many services, including:

  • Assisting with paperwork;
  • Explaining the options;
  • Educating the client on important immigration laws; and
  • Increasing the individual’s chances of success.

As previously noted, immigration laws can be extremely complex. There are also numerous documents an individual may be required to be aware of and complete. An attorney will assist with completing and filing all necessary documentation.

A lawyer can explain all of the options that may be available in an individual’s specific case. The lawyer can also explain what laws must be followed and what steps must be taken in order to satisfy the requirements of any available options.

After an individual obtains a green card or permanent residency, their lawyer can explain to them all of the immigration laws they must abide by while in the United States. This is very important because an individual who breaks the law runs the risk of being deported.

Having a lawyer greatly increases an individual’s chances of success. There are numerous applications every year that are denied. Many times, this occurs due to simple processing or application errors. Having an experienced attorney assist in completing and filing documents greatly decreases an individual’s chance of application denial.

Immigration attorney fees will vary depending upon the type of case, the location, and the experience of the attorney. The fee may also vary depending on whether the lawyer charges an hourly fee or a flat fee.

If an attorney charges a flat fee, an individual can expect to pay between $1,000 and $5,000 for their case. If the attorney charges an hourly fee, the variation may be larger.

Hourly rates vary greatly depending on many factors, including those noted above. On average, a lawyer may charge between $100 and $700 for an hour of their time. In addition, a lawyer who charges an hourly rate may require a retainer payment up front to cover a certain amount of their time.

A lawyer may choose to charge an hourly rate if a case is unique, particularly complex, or may involve multiple hearings before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It is not uncommon for a legal bill to reach the $10,000 to $15,000 range quickly if the lawyer charges an hourly rate.

It is important to note that many immigration lawyers do not offer free consultations. The initial consultation may cost between $50 and $100. However, this is an essential step in the process and an individual may still choose to select a different attorney if they wish to do so.

It is also important to note that there will be additional costs simply for the case, including filing fees. The filing fees vary greatly across the immigration process. For example, some documents may be free to file while others may cost upwards of $1,500 per person to file. There may also be fees for interpreters, which often cost around $200 per session.

Where Can I Find an Attorney for My Immigration Case?

It is essential to have the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney for any immigration case. Since immigration court is not considered a criminal proceeding in the United States, the government is not required to provide you with a court-appointed attorney.

However, if the cost of a lawyer is an issue, the immigration court provides a list of attorneys and associations that may be available to represent you at a lower cost. LegalMatch is an excellent attorney referral service that can assist you in finding an immigration lawyer for your location in a short period of time. It is free to present your case and you will know up front what the cost will be.