Whether you need to submit a new visa application, obtain a work permit, or get help with an ongoing case, filing for immigration processes usually requires paying immigration application fees and investing a lot of time. Referring to an experienced immigration expert can help avoid application denials and requests for evidence that can delay or disqualify someone’s eligibility for the status they seek.
While both immigration lawyers and immigration consultants can assist in immigration matters, it’s essential to understand their critical differences in their qualifications to make an informed decision when seeking immigration-related help.
Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law (UPIL)
Both attorneys and accredited representatives must meet the criteria outlined by the ABA to engage lawfully in providing immigration legal services. There can be severe legal consequences if an immigration consultant gives legal advice, misrepresents their qualifications, or acts as a legal representative without accreditation in another way.
Any activity outside of simple form-filling and presentation of information taken to assist a client in the immigration process could be considered the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL). Even presenting information in specific contexts can be regarded as giving legal advice, which only an attorney can do.
Services Provided by Immigration Lawyers
Immigration lawyers have completed law school, passed the bar exam in their jurisdiction, and are members of the bar association in their respective states.
Services provided by immigration lawyers may include:
Immigration lawyers can provide expert legal advice on various immigration matters, including visa applications, green card applications, citizenship applications, deportation defense, asylum applications, and more.
Immigration lawyers can assist with preparing legal documents required for immigration applications, such as petitions, forms, affidavits, and supporting documentation. They ensure the records are accurate, complete, and comply with the relevant immigration laws and regulations.
Representation in Court
Immigration lawyers can represent clients in immigration court, which can be crucial in complex cases or when facing deportation or removal proceedings. They can present compelling arguments, advocate for their clients to protect their rights and interests, and negotiate with government agencies.
Legal Advocacy, Research, and Analysis
Immigration lawyers can advocate on behalf of their clients with government agencies, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of State (DOS). They can communicate with these agencies, respond to requests for evidence, and represent their client’s interests in court.
Staying updated on the most recent legal research and analysis on immigration laws and regulations is a priority for attorneys. They can interpret legal provisions, assess their impact on client cases, and provide informed advice on their unique situation.
Services Provided by Immigration Consultants
Immigration consultants are non-legal professionals who provide immigration-related assistance. They are not licensed to practice law and cannot represent clients or give legal advice.
However, immigration consultants can have knowledge and experience in immigration matters and be able to provide basic guidance. They can assist individuals with various immigration-related tasks if they meet the accreditation requirements established by the American Bar Association (ABA). Immigration consultants may charge lower fees than immigration lawyers, making their services more appealing to individuals with budget constraints.
Due to the prevalence of underqualified individuals defrauding immigrants, it is vital to consult with an immigration lawyer, not a consultant, if you need legal advice or your situation is remotely complex.
Services provided by immigration consultants may include:
Application Assistance and Review
Immigration consultants can assist with preparing and submitting immigration applications, including visa applications, work permit applications, and other immigration forms. They can help individuals understand the terms on the form and gather supporting documents.
Immigration consultants can review immigration documents and guide clients in reviewing their information for accuracy and completeness. However, they cannot instruct individuals on how they should answer questions.
Immigration consultants can provide general advice on immigration matters. However, defining legal advice can be tricky, and sometimes unaccredited individuals familiar with the legal system give legal advice without realizing it. If you have legal questions or concerns about a potential application denial, it’s vital to speak to an immigration attorney.
Immigration consultants may be able to provide language assistance and serve as a translator to individuals who have limited English proficiency and need help with their immigration applications and communication. Translators must meet the accreditation requirements to serve as a translator in their jurisdiction and indicate they translated on forms they assist with.
Risks of Working With Immigration Consultants
Immigration consultants cannot provide legal advice or represent clients in immigration court. Choosing not to start your process with an attorney can be risky, as you may discover your case is too complicated for an immigration consultant.
Proceeding with an immigration consultant risks potentially paying two different professionals throughout your process when you could have just started with an immigration attorney. You also risk increased scrutiny, application denials, or even being barred from citizenship if you make the wrong mistake on your application. There are also more legal protections for clients wronged by their attorneys than for unaccredited consultants.
Call Us For A Free Consultation Today
It’s essential to carefully consider your specific immigration needs, budget, and level of expertise required when choosing an immigration professional. The Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC, can help you can navigate the immigration process with confidence and increase your chances of a successful outcome. Call us today to schedule a free consultation about your immigration case.