The internet is a great tool, and it is easy to rely on Google searches in our everyday lives to answer simple questions. But more complicated questions are tricky. This is especially true when trying to understand or navigate our immigration system. I’ve seen numerous cases where people filled out their own immigration applications, or used the services of non-attorney notarios, and had their applications denied and filing fees forfeited due to errors or misrepresentations that will stay permanently on their immigration record.
Hire a licensed and reputable attorney to handle your legal issue. Attorneys have gone through years of legal training, have passed the bar exam, and have passed an ethics and character inquiry into their past. They are required to perform 15 hours of new legal training each year, and have to answer to the Board of Professional Responsibility for any errors or mistakes. You can easily access profiles online to see whether an attorney has been censured or suspended. Non-attorneys have none of these ethics checks, no liability insurance, and do not have the necessary legal training to spot issues and provide you with correct advice.
Immigration law changes regularly. You may have the same factual basis as another person, but because of a minute detail your route is completely different from theirs. When the law changes, so do your options. Ask yourself who you want handling your future.
Do not go to notarios. “Notarios” in the U.S. are not attorneys and are not authorized to practice law or file immigration documents. They may offer a low cost solution to your problem, but you may spend more money in the long run trying to fix those problems they have created. You could also be a victim of rampant notario fraud, paying large sums of money for promises of benefits you were never eligible for to begin with.
Be wary of free legal clinics. Legal clinics are great, and can give people good and useful information. I myself volunteer time to assist with legal clinics. But oftentimes, these clinics are staffed by non-attorney volunteers whose job is to merely assist you in filling out paperwork. These individuals don’t have law licenses and can’t answer your legal questions. They also aren’t trained to spot potential issues with your case and could be leading you down a dangerous path. Only an attorney will be able to properly determine whether you are eligible for whatever it is you are seeking, assist you in obtaining evidence to support your claim, and rule out any potential factors that could deny you.
Be wary of non-profit immigration services. Similarly, non-profit organizations do great work for the community, but if the person assisting you is not an attorney, you should not be relying on them to answer your legal questions. They may actually be causing harm by filing incorrect paperwork or providing incorrect information in the form of unauthorized legal advice. If they have an in-house attorney, great. But USCIS and the Immigration Court won’t be able to help you if a non-attorney screws up your case.
I am an attorney, so this article may appear biased. But I can tell you, that if I have a legal problem, I’m not leaving it up to hearsay or unlicensed “experts” for advice. I can 100% tell you I am finding an attorney in that area to help me.