As an immigration lawyer in Austin, Texas, who works with marriage-based immigration cases and naturalization cases, I am often asked, “do I really need a lawyer? Isn’t the the process just a matter of filling out some forms?”
I understand the question. Who wants to pay and give their hard-earned money to a lawyer just fill out some forms? The answer is that although there are lots of forms involved in immigration law, the “forms” is not the bulk of what an immigration lawyer does. In fact, dealing with the forms is a very small part of what we do.
Immigration lawyer (at least the good ones) do a lot more than fill out forms. Our job is to advocate for our clients and diligently protect our clients’ interests while minimizing risks. The immigration process is filled with pitfalls and hurdles that can cause drastic delays and devastating denials if handled incorrectly.
So what exactly does that mean? It means that our job is to help you navigate through the convoluted immigration process by explaining to you the many legal aspects that a form is not able explain (and in most instances, the forms simply ignore). Perhaps you are not a good candidate for a green card or filing a naturalization application may put you in jeopardy of loosing your immigration status. Perhaps you don’t meet the residency requirements or the language requirements to pass the naturalization interview. A lawyer can help verify that you qualify for the benefits that you are seeking and help you prevent costly mistakes. For couples going through the marriage-based immigration system, they must attend an interview before they can get their green card. Even couples that have been together for a long time and know each other very well can fail a marriage-based interview. How is that possible? Because if you don’t know what to expect and you don’t know how to prepare yourself for that day, you may not be able to answer the type of questions you are asked.
Most immigration lawyer that I know also accompany their clients to USCIS interviews. This is, in my opinion, a huge benefit for the applicant. Some lawyer, like myself, even meet with clients before the interview to explain exactly what will happen and to help the client feel confident about his or her case with immigration. Your lawyer is your legal advocate throughout the process and also serves as a witness who is with you and has full knowledge of what is going on behind those closed doors during the interview. A good immigration lawyer communicates well with you and handles your case. It’s never just about the forms.
It’s no different than other professional services. We all have to do our taxes every year. We can all presumably do our own taxes by downloading the form from the internet and by using a pen and calculator. But if you hire an accountant, you know that you will be able to get every single deduction you qualify for, versus the ones you think you can get (which by the way, can lead to a costly audit later).
Immigration lawyer are there to prevent you from making mistakes and to ensure that your rights as an immigrant are protected and preserved. Most immigration lawyer are people who have a special connection to immigration law and who are passionate and zealous advocates in a field of law they truly enjoy.
When in doubt, always consult with an immigration lawyer. Even if you decide to handle an immigration case on your own, a brief consultation with an immigration lawyer will provide you with lots of valuable information and help you avoid costly mistakes.
Daniella Lyttle resolves immigration concerns for individuals and businesses. She represents clients in all areas of immigration law, including family-based immigration and employment-based immigration. If you have immigration questions, we have answers. You can call 24/7 at (512) 329-2770. Our Immigration Law Firm is located in Austin, Texas, but we serve clients all over Texas and throughout the world.