Below is a list of questions I complied that everyone should ask their immigration attorney before they retain the attorney. I came up with this list after seeing some of the most common mistakes that people make when choosing an immigration attorney and often times, it is too late to ask these questions.
1. How Quickly Will My Case Be Filed:
When you retain an immigration attorney often times you will have to gather the documents necessary before your case can proceed. For example, if you are filing a spousal petition, you may be given a checklist from your attorney of the documents you will need. However, how quickly after the attorney has your documents will your case be filed? It is important to ask this of your attorney. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney for a time frame. While the attorney may not be able to give you an exact date, he or she may be able to tell you if your case will be file in a week or a couple of weeks. Many times I have clients come into the office who have retained prior counsel and are not sure when or what prior counsel has filed on their case. Be proactive on your immigration case. Finding out when your case will be filed is a reasonable question to ask of your immigration attorney.
2. Who Will Be Working On My Case:
When you retain a law firm, the assumption is that the attorney that you meet at your consultation, will be the attorney handling your case. This is not always true, especially for larger firms that handle a high volume of cases. Furthermore, much of immigration forms can be completed by an immigration paralegal. However, all forms should be reviewed by an immigration attorney. Asking your attorney who will be working on your case will give you the peace of mind knowing that your case is being handled by a competent attorney.
3. What Does My Attorney Fee Cover:
Most immigration attorneys work on a flat-fee basis and do not charge by the hour. When hiring an attorney, it is important to ask and to clarify what your attorney fees are covering. Immigration cases are oftentimes complicated and may take up to a year or longer to complete. It is important that you understand, before retaining an attorney, what parts of your case is being covered under the attorney fees. By asking up front, you avoid being surprised with a bill six months down the line for services you thought were covered.
4. How Can I Get In Contact With You:
One of the biggest complaint I hear from clients is that they are unable to get in contact with their attorney. Ask your attorney in the initial meeting- what is the best way to get in contact with you. Some attorneys prefer email and reply very quickly through this method. You want to be able to facilitate faster response to your questions by adopting a method of communication that works best for your attorney. Make sure you also ask if phone calls and emails are covered under your flat fee.
5. When Can I Expect Completion of My Case
Having an idea of when your case will be completed, will not only put you at ease, but it allows you to plan for the future. Do not operate in the dark not knowing when your case will be completed- ask questions! Write down your attorney's responses. Many times attorneys are only able to give approximate ideas of when your case will be completed as it is often in the hands of the immigration officer adjudicating your case. But having an approximate date of completion is better than not having any idea at all. This will allow you to plan for the future if you know that in 6 months you may have an interview at the consulate in your home country or that 3 months from now you will have a work permit and be able to work. Be proactive and do not be afraid to ask these questions of your attorney.