For people from foreign countries who want to stay in the United States or become a citizen, you may be wondering if you need an immigration lawyer and how you know whether a specific lawyer is right for you. Although it's not required that you hire an immigration attorney when filing for citizenship or a green card, an experienced lawyer can help clarify laws to make sure that all your paperwork is filled out and filed correctly. If you're facing an immigration-related legal issue -- such as deportation -- you'll also want professional legal help by your side.
If you decide to hire an attorney, here are five questions you may want to ask an immigration lawyer to see if he or she is the right fit for you:
1. What Types of Immigration Cases Do You Handle?
Immigration lawyers handle a variety of cases involving issues such as work visas, green cards, asylum, family law, and citizenship, just to name a few. Some may focus on a particular area of immigration law, so you'll want to ask about their experience and expertise.
2. What Are Your Fees?
A very important question to ask an immigration lawyer is what his or her fees are. For some more straightforward cases, like filling out a visa application, the lawyer may charge a flat fee. For more complicated cases, like obtaining citizenship for people who illegally immigrated to the country, the lawyer may charge an hourly fee.
3. Which Documents Should I Bring to Our Initial Meeting?
Immigration issues usually require lots of evidence, so ask your attorney what you need to bring for your first meeting with him or her. For example, to apply for citizenship, some of the items you may need to bring include a green card, documents showing any name changes, and copies of your tax returns for the past three to five years.
4. Do You Speak My Language?
If English isn't your first language, you might want to ask an immigration lawyer if he or she speaks your native language. This will help facilitate your understanding of the law and the attorney's understanding of your issues. If your matter involves depositions, court appearances, or documents written in another language, ask whether you'll need to hire an interpreter or translator for your case.
5. How Will You Update Me About My Case?
An unfortunate side of immigration is that visas expire or people get deported. This can make it difficult for clients to keep in touch with their attorneys. So it's important to ask your immigration lawyer how they'll update you about your case if you're no longer in the country. Some may choose to communicate via email or could use video chatting technology, like Skype or Google Hangouts.
It's always good to ask your immigration lawyer as many questions about your case as you can, because it can help them understand your goals better. To learn more about immigration-related legal issues, check out our comprehensive section on Immigration Law or contact an experienced immigration and naturalization attorney near you.
Editor's Note, March 1, 2016: This post was first published in February 2014. It has since been updated.