Immigration is an increasingly complicated (and controversial) area of law. Before you meet with an immigration lawyer, you should prepare for your appointment. In order to understand your claim, the lawyer will need accurate and detailed information. While every lawyer has his or her own interview process, this is a list of common questions.
What Kind of Immigration Assistance Do You Need?
People see immigration lawyers for many reasons. People contact lawyers for help with:
- Visa and green card applications or renewals,
- Applications for naturalization (citizenship),
- Deportation actions,
- Unlawful detention by immigration authorities,
- Obtaining asylum and refugee status, and
- International adoptions.
Depending on your type of claim and where you are in the process, the lawyer’s advice will vary. Make sure you bring any paperwork related to your immigration matter with you to the appointment.
What Is Your Country of Origin?
Even before President Trump’s 2017 executive order on immigration, your country of origin could impact your ability to get a visa. The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) imposes a limit on the number of green cards and visas that can be issued to any one home country. (If your country has low immigration rates, your lawyer may also discuss the Diversity Visa Program with you.)
Additionally, the 2017 executive order impact the ability of people from seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) to enter the United States. While this is an area of developing law, your immigration lawyer’s advice may (at least temporarily) change if you are from one of these seven countries.
Do You Have Family Members who are American Citizens or Permanent Residents?
The United States allows citizens and green card holders to bring certain family members into the country. If you have an immediate relative (like a spouse or unmarried, minor child) that is a U.S.. citizen, you may be eligible for a visa. You may also be eligible for a visa through family preference system if you have either:
- A child or sibling who is a U.S. citizen, or
- A spouse or minor child who has a green card.
The number of available family-based visas varies year to year. The immigration lawyer can educate you about family-based visas and the eligibility requirements.
Are You Working?
The United States offers a variety of employment-based visas, including H1-A and H1-B visas. The immigration lawyer must understand your immigration status and whether it is based on your employment. Additionally, undocumented workers have other challenges. The lawyer must understand your situation so he or she can provide personalized advice.
Are You Seeking Asylum or Refugee Status?
Refugees and asylum seekers have different legal issues and challenges. Be prepared to discuss your reasons for leaving your home country in detail. If you have evidence supporting your claim, bring it with you. The immigration lawyer can also update you on how the president’s recent executive orders impact your claim for asylum or refugee status.
Were You a Victim of Domestic Violence or Another Crime?
Similarly, victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other crimes may be eligible for humanitarian visas. Additionally, victims of domestic violence can apply for citizenship more rapidly than many other applicants.
Are You a Veteran?
If you have served in the military, you do not have to meet the residency and physical presence requirements to become a citizen. If you have good moral character and meet other requirements, your application for naturalization may be processed very quickly. You should bring your discharge or other service-related documents with you to the appointment.
Have You Been Served with a Deportation Order or Detained?
Certain immigration actions (like a detention or deportation order) require immediate attention. Contact an immigration lawyer immediately if you are facing deportation or prolonged detention. The lawyer may need to quickly file legal claims on your behalf.
What Should I Bring to a Meeting with an Immigration Lawyer?
It is important to bring any evidence you have to your first appointment. This may include:
- Your birth certificate and marriage license,
- Your criminal record (if applicable),
- Completed visa applications,
- All correspondence with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and
- Any court paperwork you have concerning your immigration case.
This information will help the lawyer evaluate and understand your immigration claim.
Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer is an important decision. For many people, immigration issues are too complicated to handle without an immigration lawyer. A lawyer can help you understand your rights, comply with federal law, and help you keep or get the immigration documents you need.