The United States has been regarded as a country of immigrants throughout popular culture for decades, both by those living in the country and the world at large. The American Dream mythos inspires thousands of people from all around the world to make their way to our shores every year. I’m sure everyone has heard that the “streets were paved with gold” at one point or another. Nearly 14% of the US population is comprised of immigrants, and a large majority are here legally.
A number of industries rely heavily on bringing in labor from out of the country and securing legal immigration status for their workers. The sheer number of people in some stage of the very complicated immigration process keeps immigration lawyers in business. That said, exactly what do immigration lawyers do?
Immigration lawyers, like any other lawyer, interpret the law and apply it to a client’s specific situation in order to develop a strategy that best serves their aims. No set of laws in the United States is considered simple to understand, but immigration law is among the most complicated and most often changing body of law. An immigration lawyer’s biggest asset to his client is an intimate understanding of the law, especially because a misapplication can lead to delays, job loss, or even deportation in some cases.
Why Do We Need Immigration Attorneys?
The stakes are much higher when the client is seeking representation in an immigration matter and a good immigration lawyer will reduce the risk of disastrous consequences. Any time you have to interact with the law, either police or the courts, can be stressful. For immigrants, that interaction can be even more so because they may be sent back to where they came from, torn apart from their families and lives they built in the United States.
Many times immigration attorneys will represent minor children who do not know how to advocate for themselves and are at risk of being sent home due to their parents immigration status. It is the immigration lawyers job to counsel and calm any client they have while they help with the incredibly important aim of remaining in their country of choice.
Applying for Legal Status
Most immigration matters require a mountain of paperwork and evidence to be submitted to an administrative court or agency. Immigration lawyers will prepare all necessary forms and gather relevant evidence in order to submit it to the appropriate agency. This will require research, information gathering, statement preparation and tracking down relevant parties- such as employers or spouses. Immigration officials hear thousands of cases and it is important that all paperwork and evidence is conveyed in a clear, concise and organized manner to ensure case progression. The immigration lawyer will also be able to direct the paperwork to the appropriate place- whether it is going to a specific USCIS office, P.O. Box or an immigration court. This is the kind of insider information that saves the client hours of research and potential delays in processing.
Many immigration proceedings require an interview in which the client or clients are evaluated by an immigration official. An immigration lawyer will counsel his client in preparation for the interview, which is important for a number of reasons. Interacting with the government or law enforcement is nerve wracking for many ordinary citizens, let alone immigrants who may or may not have run into issues with immigration officials. A lawyer will ease the clients worries and prepare them for an interview by telling them some questions that are likely to be asked, how to answer them and ensure compliance with submitted paperwork. At the interview, the immigration official will be looking for information to match that of the application. A lawyer will make sure his client knows what information was submitted and ensure that the client answers questions correctly.
Anyone can spend a few hours researching what forms to submit for certain applications and fill them out, but an immigration lawyer will have practical experience that streamlines the complicated process. What can seem like a very simple immigration matter may require the submission of several different forms, mailed to a certain USCIS P.O. Box with specific information and evidence. Some or all of this information may be available to the layman to research themselves, but it is more likely that someone with little to no legal background will miss a step and submit an incomplete application or send it to the wrong address. An immigration lawyers experience is invaluable when it comes to preventable delays that can disrupt a person’s life and put their livelihood at risk.
Representation in Deportation and Removal Proceedings
Immigration lawyers also represent clients in immigration court if they are facing deportation or removal. In this case, an immigration lawyer will become not just his client’s counsel but his advocate to the court. As mentioned above, immigration law is one of the most complicated bodies of United States law. Part of what makes it so complicated is how situational immigration itself is. People come to the United States under many different circumstances and immigration law accounts for this. Typically there are multiple avenues a person could pursue in defense of their immigration status. Representation by an immigration lawyer will ensure that the client exhausts all his options.
In the case of a deportation or removal hearing, an immigration lawyer will firstly get his clients full immigration story. This important step allows the immigration lawyer to get all the facts which can be applied to the type of relief the client may seek. The immigration lawyer will conduct legal research to determine which law and relief applies to the client’s situation. It is very likely that multiple avenues of relief apply depending on how the facts are framed. The immigration attorney will then counsel his client on the type of relief and decide together which avenue to pursue. This is all done before the client has even stepped foot into court.
The immigration lawyer will help the client prepare for the court appearance by explaining the law to him in easily understandable terms and counseling the client on how best to present his story to the judge. The immigration attorney will have intimate knowledge of the procedural requirements and deadlines of the court and make sure the client abides by them in order to make sure his case is heard, on time and without delay. Immigration lawyers will also appear in court in defense of their client and submit whatever briefs or motions are required by the case.
An immigration lawyer will also counsel their client on what behaviors to abstain from in order to prevent putting their immigration case at risk. Many immigrants come to the United States in search of gainful employment that is not available in their home countries, but without proper permission from the government it would be illegal for them to work and put their case in jeopardy. This may not be apparent to a layman trying to interpret the law, but an immigration attorney will be able to explain it in an understandable manner.
Applying for Visas and Immigration from Outside of the Country
Immigration attorneys assist those living abroad who wish to come to the United States with the proper process for immigrating legally. This includes many of the things we already covered, gathering information and filing immigration paperwork as well as visa applications and coordinating with foreign visa offices. Those wishing to immigrate to the United States often face years of applications and meetings with consulates and embassies, dealing with bureaucracy and the retention of an immigration lawyer will ensure that they are appraised of all deadlines and requirements.
Business and Immigration Lawyers
Businesses in industries that hire a significant number of foreign workers will retain the services of an immigration attorney. The attorney will ensure that the business is compliant with United States immigration and employment laws. The immigration attorney will also coordinate visa applications and sponsorship paperwork for foreign workers.
Keeping Up With Current Immigration News
Aside from the representation of their clients, whichever type they may require, immigration attorneys also must be hyper aware of the constantly changing immigration laws of the United States. Immigration is a highly politicized topic and each new President influences changes to immigration law and policy. Immigration officials are also given a large degree of discretion, which immigration attorneys must also remain aware of in order to counsel their clients appropriately.
The Immigration Lawyer’s Role
Millions of people have come to the United States in search of something, most apply for some version of legal immigration status. Many are not fluent English speakers, or do not have a good grasp on the type of technical legal jargon used in immigration paperwork.
Immigrants depend on legal status in order to work and live in the United States without risking deportation or removal. Businesses depend on foreign workers and ensure that they remain compliant with immigration law. Immigration attorneys are invaluable for both immigrants and those who hire them. Because the law and procedures are so difficult to understand and constantly changing an immigration attorney’s most important role is as his clients counsellor.
An immigration attorney’s job is to understand immigration law and all its facets and explain it to the people to whom it applies. Because stakes are incredibly high for non-compliance attorneys who specialize in immigration matters must be vigilant, thorough and extremely detail oriented. Missteps in the immigration process may cost honest people thousands of dollars in application fees, lost jobs, and attorneys fees or even worse; an insufficient application may result in deportation.