Meeting with an Immigration Lawyer

Whether you or a loved one plans on coming to the US for a short time on a student or special work visa, or with hopes to stay permanently or even gain US citizenship, you're likely to need some legal help with the immigration process. Having a good first meeting with your immigration lawyer can make the process go quickly and save you money.

Here's a list of things to keep in mind when meeting with an attorney:

  • Make sure you have all the information or documents the attorney may have asked you to gather when you first spoke on the phone. She may have sent you a questionnaire or form asking for basic information like your full name, address, home telephone number, and employer's name and phone number. Being prepared at the first meeting means the lawyer can start to work on your case quickly 
  • A day or two before your scheduled meeting, call the attorney's office and confirm your appointment. Tell him what materials you've gathered and ask if he needs anything else to help him understand your case
  • Get to the attorney's office a few minutes early. She may be running ahead of schedule and may be able to talk to start your meeting early. It also shows her that you're serious about the case
  • Relax. When you finally meet face-to-face, don't be too anxious to tell your lawyer everything in one breath. Take some time and get to know each other. Your lawyer may want to start with some chit-chat about the weather or your family. It's OK
  • If you haven't already done so in an earlier phone call, be prepared to ask your attorney some questions, like how many cases she's handled like yours; how much time your case may take; what forms and paperwork you need
  • Be upfront with your attorney. When it comes time to talk about the particulars of your case, answer the attorney's questions truthfully and completely. Remember, even if she doesn't take your case, anything you say is protected by the attorney-client privilege, meaning except in very rare instances, she can't tell anyone else about what you say to her
  • The attorney may give you some options about what you can do next in your case. Listen to all the options, and if you don't understand something, ask him to explain it. Ask him what he would do if he was in your position
  • If you like the attorney, if you think she can help, and if you're ready to hire her, take a breath. If you haven't asked already, now's the time to find out how much she's going to charge for her help. If you talked to more than one lawyer, you may have an idea of how much your case should cost. If the lawyer's price sounds too high or too low, she may be overcharging or may not have enough experience to know what charge is reasonable
  • Ask for references from clients she's helped in the past. They can tell you a lot about the lawyer. If she refuses to give you some references, you may want to look for another attorney
  • Ask the attorney if he'll handle the case personally or if a paralegal, assistant or another attorney in the law firm will handle it under his supervision. You're paying for an experienced attorney, so make sure the attorney you're talking to is taking care of your case
  • Unless you're in an emergency situation or a big hurry, you don't have to hire the attorney right then and there. Most attorneys will understand if you say you'd like a few days to think about your options and to talk to the lawyer's references
  • If you decide to hire the attorney, you'll get some sort of contract to sign. Read it carefully; every page and word for word. It should spell out clearly what exactly your attorney is agreeing to do for you and how much you agree to pay him. Make sure the contract matches what you and your attorney talked about in your meeting. If you have any questions, ask your attorney before you sign the contract
  • Be prepared to pay your attorney a partial fee or retainer when you sign the contract. Pay by check or by credit card. Ask your attorney if a payment plan can be set up for your future costs and expenses if you think it may be difficult for you to pay a lump sum at the end of the case. Showing you're able and willing to pay for her services shows your attorney you're responsible and you take the case seriously
  • Make sure you understand completely what the next steps are. Your attorney should explain exactly what will happen next in your case, how long it may take, and what you need to do to get things moving - forms, documents, etc. You should have your attorney's phone number and his assurance that you can call him at any time if you have any questions or concerns about your case
  • If your attorney contacts you later and asks for more information or documents, do your best to get him what he asks for as soon as possible

At the end of your first meeting, you should have a good idea of what can be done in your case, how your attorney plans to handle things, and how long it will take. It's an important step in helping you reach your goal of getting into or staying in the US.

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