In our last article, we discussed why hiring an immigration lawyer is a worthy investment.
Simply put, an immigration lawyer provides valuable legal assistance and services to clients seeking help with various immigration related cases that are, more often than not, complicated and confusing.
In the United States, an immigration lawyer is the only person authorized by law to offer and give legal advice and represent a client.
For those seeking a US visa or getting an immigration case resolved through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), hiring a US immigration lawyer is undoubtedly the best option to ensure a smooth journey towards obtaining positive results.
Unfortunately, many applicants still choose to take a different route.
Those who are confident with their own capabilities to obtain the USCIS' stamp of approval sometimes prefer to go through the application process pro se while those who cannot or do not want to rely on themselves to go through the process, but are hesitant to invest on a US immigration lawyer, choose to employ the services of an immigration consultant.
What is a US immigration consultant?
A US immigration consultant is anyone who provides assistance to applicants trying to obtain a US visa and those going through various applications related to immigration. The US immigration consultant can be anyone with either a vast or very little knowledge about immigration and its corresponding policies and regulations.
What can a US immigration consultant do for you?
The role of a US immigration consultant is limited to preparing paperwork such as filling out forms for applicants who cannot or do not want to fill out the forms on their own. The US immigration consultant, while filling out the forms for the applicant, can translate the questions for non-English speaking applicants and write their responses on the forms in English, if necessary. Any services done beyond paperwork require the intervention and supervision of a qualified lawyer.
Are US immigration consultants legally authorized to render services?
Different states have different laws governing US immigration consultants. However, the United States does not have a standard process on certifying immigration consultants so there are currently no licensed US immigration consultants in existence with the exception of one state– California. In California, an immigration consultants are recognized by the state but it is mandatory for them to "register with the Secretary of State" and satisfy the state's qualification requirements first before being allowed to render services to their clients.
Quite the opposite, some US states stipulate that no immigration consultant is legally authorized to render immigration services to anyone within the state unless he or she is a qualified lawyer.
What are the advantages of hiring a US immigration lawyer?
US immigration consultants are only allowed by law to render paperwork services and translation assistance and nothing else.
US immigration lawyers, on the other hand, have more functions that include giving legal advice and representing clients with the USCIS aside from rendering paperwork and translation services during the entire application process. US immigration lawyers are experts in their field of practice and are authorities on any subject pertaining to immigration which is a tremendous advantage to those going through complex US visa and other immigration related applications.
Who charges higher fees?
With the quality and variety of services offered by a US immigration lawyer, it goes without saying that he or she is legally allowed to charge higher fees.
US immigration consultants can only charge minimal fees per their respective states' laws.
Who should I hire?
If you are still on the fence on who to hire for your immigration needs, just remember that your decision will greatly affect the outcome of your application.
Simply put, you get what you pay for.
You can opt to pay a US immigration consultant to fill out your application form for you or you can choose to invest on a qualified US immigration lawyer who understands immigration laws, who can and will represent you before the meticulous and quite intimidating USCIS if needed, who will tell you the correct forms to file, who will coach you with your responses especially during your interview, who will do the legwork for you, and most significantly, who will give you invaluable legal advice.