How to contact an Immigration Attorney
Immigration laws and regulations are complex and constantly evolving. The OIS should be the first point of contact to discuss your specific case as the institution has sponsored your visa status. If this should be the case, please contact your International Services Representative and schedule an appointment. There are times when your case may be outside the scope of our office. For instance, an international visitor may be requesting information about permanent residency or requiring specific information about H-4 spousal benefits. Topics such as those mentioned may be outside our capacity and we would defer you to seek guidance from an immigration attorney, also called “lawyer”.
The OIS is unable to recommend any specific attorneys. However, we do suggest that you find someone that specializes in the work that you plan to do. For example, if you are a clinical dental faculty member, then you will want to find someone who has experience working with dentists and/or academic healthcare institutions. A second example would be if you are a J-1 resident/fellow sponsored by ECFMG and looking to obtain a Conrad 30 waiver or other waiver of the two-year home residency requirement, then you would want to find an attorney that is familiar with such requests.
Every year the OIS hosts a few immigration attorneys to speak to our international visitors on topics such as “Options after Graduation” and “Waiver Options.” We strongly encourage our international visitors to attend these workshops if they are interested in staying in the U.S. beyond their current immigration status . It is also a good opportunity to meet with an immigration attorney that is well versed in the specific topic of discussion.
Questions that you may want to consider before you commit to hiring an attorney
- How long have you been practicing immigration law? How much of your work is immigration related? How much experience do you have in _________ (your particular issue)?
We recommend that you look for an attorney who does all or most of their work in immigration law.
- Will you provide an initial consultation before I hire you to take my case?
If so, be sure to find out how much the consultation will cost and how long will it be.
- What is the best way for me to contact you?
Is the attorney accessible via cell phone, pager, email, and/or office phone?
- Who will be handling the details of my case?
Will you contact the attorney or a paralegal with questions? What is the training and experience of the paralegal?
- Who will choose the attorney and pay the legal fees for an employment-based petition?
In employment-based cases, the employer may make the choice about which attorney will be used. The employer may designate either an “in house” attorney or immigration specialist who works for the company or an outside attorney who will be paid a fee by the employer. In some cases, the employer pays and in some cases the fee is split between employee and employer. An employment-based petition will involve you, the employer, and the attorney. Even if the employer pays the fees, you are also the attorney’s client. Do not be bashful about asking questions and talking to the attorney about the progress and details of your petition. For more information about our employment-based permanent residency sponsorship policy, please visit U.S. Permanent Residence.
- How much will it cost to hire you to handle my case?
Rates vary significantly based on geographic location, the specifics of your situation, and other factors. Be sure to ask before the work begins what the legal fees and other costs will be. Be sure that you understand exactly what services the fees will include.
- Will I be charged a flat rate, or an hourly rate? If it is a flat rate, what services does the flat rate include?
If the attorney charges an hourly rate, ask how they handle phone calls and emails. If the attorney charges a flat rate and if an initial petition requires additional evidence or is denied, will the response or an appeal be included in the flat rate?
- Will I have to pay before the work starts (“up front”) or after services have been rendered?
Some attorneys will ask to be paid a “retainer,” which is a partial fee paid in advance for his/her professional services. Many attorneys who charge a flat fee will require all or part of the fees and costs before starting the work. However, the attorney still must be able to account for how the money is spent.