The role of an immigration lawyer is somewhat unique when compared with other types of lawyers.  Most immigration lawyers spend their time helping persons who are having difficulty dealing with immigration requirements. 

The role of immigration lawyers is usually that of an advisor or counselor to foreign citizens and immigrants who must interact with U.S. immigration authorities.  Immigration lawyers provide advice and guidance for matters such as visa applications, green cards, citizenship and naturalization, deportation issues, and employment for non-citizens. 

Immigration lawyers spend far less time handling civil disputes in court than other types of lawyers.  Instead, they usually act as mediators between clients and immigration authorities such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

On the other hand, immigration lawyers do make appearances before immigration judges if a client is facing an immigration hearing.  Many immigration lawyers also handle matters involving an interaction between immigration and criminal laws.

What are Some Situations Where Hiring an Immigration Lawyer is Necessary?

Most persons hire an immigration lawyer when they need assistance in submitting an application for some type of immigration document, such as a visa or green card.  This is especially true when the person is unable to fully understand the various requirements under immigration law.

There are certain instances when hiring an immigration lawyer is absolutely necessary.  Some of these situations include:

If an applicant has been convicted of a crime:  Nearly all USCIS forms ask whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime.  The applicant must disclose their entire criminal record, even for charges that were dropped or expunged.  It is usually not necessary to hire a criminal lawyer; immigration lawyers always understand how immigration and criminal law overlap.

Prior immigration applications have been denied:  An immigration lawyer will be able to determine why the application was denied.  They can also tell if it is possible to appeal the application or re-apply later in the future.

If the person has previously been deported or excluded from entry into the U.S.:  Sometimes deportation or exclusion means that the person is permanently barred from future applications.  An immigration attorney can provide advice on the effects of deportation and exclusion.

If an applicant has a medical condition:  Some, but not all medical conditions may prevent a person from obtaining entry into the U.S. (such as some communicable diseases).

When an applicant is waiting an unreasonably long time during the application process:  Immigration lawyers are familiar with application processes, including deadlines and waiting times.  A lawyer can sometimes help the applicant obtain expedited or rush processing.

If the applicant is seeking an employment-based visa, but their prospective employer is not assisting with immigration issues:  Processing for employment-based visas can be complicated.  An immigration lawyer can help ensure that future employers are fulfilling their obligations to future immigrant workers. 

If the applicant’s marriage to a U.S. citizen was terminated before they were able to have conditions removed on their permanent resident status:  Visa applications based on marriages are usually filed jointly.  If the marriage has been terminated due to divorce or death, it can be particularly difficult to prove that the marriage was not fraudulent.

If an applicant is seeking to adjust their permanent resident status but was recently divorced and married to a different U.S. citizen:  The main issue here is that the first marriage may be suspected to be a scam.  An immigration lawyer may be necessary to prove that the first marriage was legitimate. 

If a person is immigrating to the U.S. with their family and their child might reach age 21 before permanent resident status is granted:  Eligibility for permanent resident status is different for children under the age of 21.  A lawyer can help determine the best method of filing for children of applicants.   

If the applicant has begun the application process but does not know what to do next:  At times USCIS may request additional paperwork or documentation to support an applicant’s claim.  Working with an attorney from the beginning of the process can help prevent delays and may even make the process faster.

Should I Contact an Immigration Lawyer?

Immigration matters can often be complex and difficult to understand.  Many applications take several months or even years to complete.  If you have any issues at all with immigration laws or procedures, an immigration lawyer can be of much help.  Working with an attorney can save you much time and frustration in trying to sort out the different requirements.  Also, if you have an immigration hearing, a lawyer can be present to make sure that your interests are fully protected.