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5 Considerations When Hiring an Immigration Lawyer
By Attorney Vaman Kidambi
Let me start out by stating that the first thing you should do before hiring an immigration attorney is to check the attorney’s standing with the local Bar Association. This information is readily available online. For instance, attorneys admitted in New York State can be found on the New York State Unified Court System website under “Attorney Search”. I also recommend asking friends and peers for a referral. There is nothing like a firsthand opinion of the Attorney you plan to hire from someone who has already used his/her services. Finally, try emailing, or calling the Law Firm to see how responsive they are and whether you feel comfortable relying on them for you immigration needs. After all, depending on the case, the process could take anywhere from twelve months to twelve years!
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has the following important pointers when hiring an Immigration Attorney:
- Be smart! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t believe it if someone tells you about a secret law or claims to have connections or special influence with any agency.
- Never sign an application that contains false information and try to avoid signing blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and review it for accuracy before it is filed.
- Always get proof of filing—a copy or government filing receipt—when anything is submitted in your case.
- Insist on a written contract that details all fees and expenses and make sure you receive a receipt, especially if you pay cash. If terms change, get a written explanation.
- Don’t let anyone “find” you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card: it’s illegal.
Here are some additional considerations and advise about hiring and working with an immigration attorney.
1. Trust Your Attorney
The attorney-client relationship is based on trust. So, rule number one is to find and retain an attorney you can trust. Not everything that we do in immigration is logical. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is a very large federal agency that relies on outside contractors for everything from opening mail, to printing notices, and even processing preliminary paperwork. Oftentimes, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, the attorney may not be able to prevent an “agency error”. When this happens, patience is required in the handling of the matter. A good attorney will guide you through the process based on well-established best practices that the Firm or attorney has developed over the years. Affording the attorney, the benefit of doubt is important and even necessary for your own peace of mind.
2. Social Media Champions
It is important that you don’t base the decision to hire an attorney solely on their social media profiles. Many Law Firms engage outside PR agencies to tout their accomplishments and drum up business. Constantly posting online or having a very active website does not always guarantee results. I can hardly imagine a busy practitioner finding the time to constantly post on social media. Instead, I would rely on blogs and well-written articles in peer-reviewed journals to assess the quality of an Attorney’s work product.
3. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
Using online reviews to select a Law Firm may not be a bad idea, but it is far from the only consideration. Have you ever tried to decide on the best hotel to stay while on vacation? How many of you use online reviews to decide on the best hotel? So, you know the job is anything but simple. Even the best attorneys may initially end up losing the case. However, the road to success may involve filing subsequent motions and appeals to overcome the initial denial. Eventually, success is based on the final outcome of the case. If relying on online reviews, I suggest looking at how the Law Firm handled a bad review. A prompt, considerate and well-reasoned response shows the character of the Law Firm, and you should weigh this carefully in making your final choice.
4. Flat Fee Arrangements
Like any business, a Law Firm sets its fees based on the complexity and time it takes to complete a case. However, you should know your budget before you engage in discussions with the Law Firm. In immigration, “flat fees” are generally the norm. Flat fees include expenses and provide the client with a final bill that is in keeping with the negotiated fee with no hidden or additional costs. As a best practice, the Law Firm should provide you with an Engagement Letter with a schedule of fees clearly laying out the fees being charged.
5. Experts and So-Called Experts
Many states offer specialization programs that certify lawyers as specialists in certain types of law. Some areas of law, even have their own certification programs. However, this is not the only way to determine if the attorney is an expert at what he or she does. I have been in practice for twenty-five years and handle a very large volume of immigration cases. I have seen situations that sometimes did not come for the first ten or fifteen years of my practice. So, not always, but having an attorney who has been practicing for several years is an advantage.
Kidambi & Associates was founded on the idea of putting service to our clients first…always. We registered “Serving Immigrants, Serving America® with the USPTO (USPTO SERIAL NO. 77392587) believing, it is not enough to simply represent clients, but to strive to uphold the values of selfless service in every single case. We want to be the homing beacon shining and lighting the path along an immigrant’s journey to the United States.
We understand that there is no substitute for success. Please take a moment to look through our website and contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help you achieve the desired result.
EB-1A; Investment/Management Analyst for Institutional Equity Management Firm
“ Thank you for the help with this. This is obviously a defining moment for anyone’s career and life. It would be interesting to see which prongs they ultimately approved. Maybe they share the details in the notice. In any case, I shall bring some wine when I see you guys later this week for the I-485 submission.”
This Client was frustrated with the lack of movement in visa numbers for India and already had an approved Immigrant Petition (I-140) in the Employment Based Second Preference Category. Highly qualified and earning a high salary, his position warranted further review under the first preference category. We undertook a thorough review of his background, job duties, personal achievements before putting together a winning petition. It is significant that the Client had no publications, or membership in noteworthy peer organizations. His achievements were commercial, and we had to find a way to present his story in a compelling way. Additional pressure was brought to bear when we found out that changes were underway at the Petitioning company. The Kidambi team painstakingly put together each letter and document to build what we believe was an extremely persuasive petition. The client even chose premium processing as a way of seeking quick review.
The petition was approved in record time.
EB-1B-Outstanding Researcher/Professor- Systems Pharmacology
EB-1B – Outstanding Researcher/Professor
Field: Systems Pharmacology – a marriage of two parallel universes – Systems Biology and Pharmacokinetics – Pharmacodynamics (PKPD).
The initial petition for this Client was prepared by the largest Immigration Law Firm in the Country and was summarily denied by the USCIS. The Law Firm told our client that he should just go with an EB-2 Petition since they did not think he rose to the level of an Outstanding Researcher. First, we discovered the initial petition had misclassified the “field of endeavor” and went about fixing this by engaging the client in a discussion about his area of research and how it was unique. We categorized the field as a new discipline that uses “quantitative and computational methods to study emergent behaviors of biological components”. This was further explained through a series of examples and lay person testimony to assist examiners. More importantly, we provided video evidence through a YouTube upload that showed the field itself was in its very nascence and its recent origins were no more than ten years old. The previous petition had no mention of the Petitioner’s standing or profile in the field. This was remedied by engaging in a spirited discussion about the petitioner’s profile as a top-notch innovator with a pipeline of drugs that required cutting edge research. This was further bolstered with a “forward looking statement” from the Employer. Finally, we provided a statement from the FDA according one of the Employer’s products with “Breakthrough Therapy” designation. This was followed by more in depth analysis of the Employer’s R&D process and how our Client played a crucial role in the team. Several letters were offered into evidence to show how Beneficiary satisfied several of the criteria required for designation as an Outstanding Researcher. Particular attention was paid to the various international citations received by peer reviewed publications authored by our Client. Each citation was carefully discussed for its probative value. The USCIS lays special emphasis on the international recognition and scope of peer reviewed publications. The petition was premium processed and approved in two-weeks.
EB-1B – Outstanding Researcher/Professor- Field: Light Scattering and Rheology of Complex Fluids
EB-1B – Outstanding Researcher/Professor
Field: Light Scattering and Rheology of Complex Fluids
Cite: Matter of T-C-S-C, ID# 13183 (AAO Sep 28, 2015)
Case: LIN 14 908 13202
The initial petition filed by our Office was denied by the Service. The reasons were cursory and showed a complete lack of understanding of the field and Beneficiary’s formidable achievements as an Outstanding Researcher. More importantly, the USCIS completely ignored the Petitioner’s profile and standing in the field as a leader in innovation. The AAO in sustaining the Appeal had this to say about Beneficiary’s achievements: “The submitted letters attest to the Beneficiary’s standing as a recognized expert in his field and to the widespread use of his work by other researchers internationally. These statements are supported by documentary evidence including citation data. In light of the evidence discussed above and other corroborating evidence of record, we find that the Beneficiary’s achievements in the aggregate are commensurate with being recognized internationally as outstanding in the academic field.” We worked very closely with the Client to help him understand the vagaries of the USCIS adjudication process and how we strongly believed our appeal would be successful. The final Appeal Brief ran to over 50 pages and contained approximately 5000 pages of evidence.
Extraordinary Ability – Multinational Executive/Manager (EB1C)
This is great A___!! Yasmin….many thanks for all your work on this.
I am grateful for your help.
I received my approval notice (welcome letter) and email that the GC has been mailed via USPS. I should be receiving the physical card in a couple of days.
THANKS A LOT to both of you (and everyone else involved) for your patience and help with getting this through.
Mr. A___ initially entered the U.S. in L-1A status. Subsequently his status was changed to H-1B status. Mr. A and his employer approached us to initiate the process of obtaining permanent residence. We realized that Mr. A___ was still functioning as a multinational executive/manager and qualified for EB-1C. We advised the client accordingly and initiated processing of an immigrant petition in the first preference. The USCIS issued a complex RFE challenging the Manager/Executive nature of the position. Our Office then responded with extensive documentation of the managerial/executive nature of the position. The response to the RFE was in excess of 40 pages and argued Mr. A___’s eligibility for the classification. The petition was approved.
EB-1A Extraordinary Ability – Tennis Player
That’s great news!
Thanks for all the help.
We had obtained an O-1 as an outstanding tennis player for this client. He turned pro in 2005. He was selected to play Davis Cup for his Country in 2006. Then, in August of 2011, he began moving up in the rankings eventually being ranked 113 in the World. He was also given a wild card into the 2011 French Open. We pounced on this string of achievements to immediately make a case for EB-1A. When we learned his case had been approved and notified him, he was on his way to Australia to participate in the 2012 Australian Open Qualifying Rounds.
EB-1B Outstanding Researcher – Food Science (M.S. in Food Science – No Ph.D.)
“This is your client for the EB-1-OR application through _____ Inc. I wanted to inform you that I have received the Green Card. Me and my wife would like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for successfully managing our case to completion. We are extremely excited about this as it will open up a lot of opportunities for us. Also, wanted to share the news of the birth of our baby boy. He is 4 weeks old now.”
The Client came to us after being rejected for the EB-1B category by a prominent Law Firm that felt that his lack of a Ph.D. was a clear disqualification and he did not qualify for the EB-1 category. We reviewed his resume carefully and after a detailed discussion discovered his background was nothing less than extraordinary. Mr. Shenoy (assumed name) had obtained a Master’s degree in Food Science from the Number #1 ranked university for Food Science in the U.S. While employed with his current employer, Mr. Shenoy had invented a supplement which would allow patients maintain healthy blood glucose, triglyceride and cholesterol levels using a single product at a manageable daily dose. A patent application had been filed, but not granted. Evidentiary documentation of a key collaboration for the research along with the patent application, research methodology showing extensive testing and painstaking research over 24 months, publications (6) and evidence of membership were submitted.
The petition was approved in record time.
Extraordinary Ability – Tennis Coach (EB1A)
Wowww!!! I can’t believe it!! I am still shaking!! 🙂 You and your team of lawyers are the very very best!! Thank you for your wise advice during this many visas-green card process! I always felt I safe after listening to your advice!! Thank you to Maier for all her work on my case. You Kidambi lawyers ROCK!! 🙂 Big THANK YOU again!
– Flor. T (assumed name), USA
The Immigrant Petition was filed on behalf of a Tennis Coach under the Extraordinary Ability Category. Again, the Office prepared the Petition in a meticulous fashion referencing every major achievement in our Client’s career. We provided sample letters to elicit information from several of the Client’s students and proteges. Because Tennis professionals tend to be extremely busy and rushed for time, the task of helping potential affiants provide helpful letters is always a challenge. We surmounted this problem by, for instance, allowing potential affiants call in and leave long messages, or tape and send us their comments which were then reduced to extraordinarily detailed letters to help our Client’s case. It also helped that the Client worked with a former World #1 player and was part of an academy set up by this Star. However, due to the sensitivity of this Star’s status, care had to be taken with the statement being provided and we had to work closely with the Star’s International Attorney to ensure everyone was happy with the submission being made. Finally, we gathered a record amount of evidence to convince the Service that the Petition was worthy of being approved as filed. The final submission was prepared using the USCIS’s new standard for EB-1 submission.