Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration attorney’

28th January 2010

On this blog, we frequently take the time to point out the fact that only a US licensed attorney or other accredited representative can represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the National Visa Center (NVC), or the US Embassy in Bangkok. Recently, USCIS has promulgated a brochure for consumers regarding US Immigration and fraud perpetrated against unwitting immigrants. Unfortunately, there are those who claim to be US Immigration experts when they are in fact unlicensed to practice United States law. These people claim all sorts of titles in order to sound as though they have a right to practice American Immigration law. The fact of the matter is that there are only two types of representatives that USCIS or the Department of State recognizes as legally able to represent clients.

The first category of authorized representatives is Attorneys. To quote directly from the brochure, USCIS requires the following in order for an attorney to act as a representative for clients in an Immigration matter:

An attorney must be in good standing with a U.S. state bar association (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and may not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. The best way to protect yourself is to ask the attorney to show you their current attorney license document. Write down the information and contact the state bar admission office to verify the accuracy of the information.

In a further quote from this brochure, USCIS explains what an individual or organization needs in order to be recognized as an accredited representative in immigration matters:

An accredited representative must work for an organization that has permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to provide legal advice on immigration matters. The organization will have an order from the BIA that gives the accredited representative permission to assist individuals with their immigration applications and petitions. The best way to protect yourself is to ask the accredited representative to show you the BIA order. Write down the information and contact the BIA to verify the accuracy of the information.

There it is, from USCIS itself, there are only two ways to verify that one calling himself an attorney is actually certified or licensed to practice Immigration law. Those seeking Immigration advice would be wise to undertake the above measures in order to be certain that their representative is able to effectively represent their interests. So-called visa agents, Immigration Consultants, legal advisors, and/or anyone calling themselves a “lawyer” should be able to provide either a license to practice law in a US state or territory, a US bar membership card, or a letter of permission from the Board of Immigration Appeals, anyone who cannot produce one of these documents is not authorized under US law to practice in the area of United States Immigration. This brochure went on to note that only an American attorney or an accredited representative is entitled to submit a form G-28 to the USCIS service center. Anyone who prepares an application without including this G-28 document should be asked why they are not submitting it.

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2nd December 2009

The United States Department of State is tasked with overseeing the efficient operation of US Embassies and Consulates abroad. Often, State Department headquarters issues instructions to posts abroad using official cables. In US Immigration circles there is a well known cable called “99 State,” otherwise known as 99 State 21138. This cable lays out guidelines for Consular Officers with regard to United States Immigration Attorneys.

The first notable policy outlined in the Cable deals with the relationship between Immigration attorneys and Consular Officers:

“The relationship between consular officers and immigration attorneys can be productive. Consular officers can often learn a great deal from a conscientious attorney, and vice versa.”

There is no doubt in this author’s mind that this is true. Consular officers provide a great deal of assistance when processing visa applications. More than anything, they can provide insight into the underlying policy reasons behind failure to issue a visa. In many cases, the reason for delay is due to a failure to provide pertinent information that the client did not believe was necessary to adjudicate the petition.

The Cable goes further:

“Consular officers should not pass judgment on applicants who choose to employ the services of an attorney. Some people are more comfortable working through an attorney no matter how straightforward or simple the visa case may appear to the consular officer.”

This is one section of the cable that Consular Officers seem to have taken to heart. This author has never felt that Consular Officers look askance at applications where the petitioner or beneficiary has retained an attorney to assist in preparation. With regard to case preparation, the Cable goes further:

“One important service that attorneys provide to their clients is making sure that forms are correctly completed and necessary supporting documentation presented at the time of the interview.”

Consular Officers are required to adjudicate petitions and, if the petitions receive approval, issue visas. In this author’s experience their primary goal seems to be efficient processing of bona fide petitions. Immigration attorneys can enhance the process through documentation compilation and foreknowledge of relevant issues. Those issues that may effect the outcome of a case can be dealt with in such a way that case processing proceeds smoothly. In many ways the Consulate forestalls unforeseen delays through promulgation of consistent rules:

“Posts that establish clear and consistent procedures for responding to attorney inquiries save time and resources in the long run. As with Congressional correspondence, the fuller the explanation of a refusal or a 221(g) decision, the more you will help yourself.”

It has been this author’s experience that Consular staff are very upfront about what they are seeking in a given case. Further, the role of an attorney is clearly defined by the US Embassy Thailand as no one is allowed to be present during the visa interview, this includes American fiances and husbands in K1 visa and K3 visa cases. This being said, attorneys are currently permitted to submit 221(g) follow-up documentation where necessary.

In the years since the distribution of “99 State,” it is this author’s opinion that Consular Officer-Immigration attorney relations are professional, efficient, and cordial and there is no reason to believe that this will not continue to be the case.


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13th November 2009

In a previous post the issue of the G-28 Notice of Attorney Appearance was discussed. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service had changed the form in order to update its contents to more accurately convey information regarding the exact nature of an attorney’s representation of a client before the various agencies under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security. Recently, this author has learned through the American Immigration Lawyers Association that USCIS will continue to accept the old form and will not reject an application simply for utilizing the previous form. To quote USCIS through AILA:

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that the previous version of the Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative (Form G-28) will be accepted until further notice… On Oct. 1, 2009, USCIS announced the publication of a new Form G-28 and provided a 30-day grace period, until Oct. 30, for accepting previous versions at the USCIS Lockbox facilities or USCIS Service Centers. USCIS encourages attorneys and accredited representatives to use the new Form G-28, however, USCIS will not reject filings of the previous Form G-28 version until further notice. This will allow law students who represent immigrants to use the previous form until changes can be made to the form to accommodate their unique situation.”

As stated previously, the submission of a G-28 puts the United States government (in the form of the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Cutoms and Border Protection, and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service) on notice that an attorney has officially entered their appearance in the case.

Also a G-28 is an effective way of determining if one is dealing with an actual attorney or simply working with a “visa company,” “visa agency,” or phony unlicensed “lawyer.” Unless the government is willing to correspond directly with one’s attorney it may be wise to seek representation elsewhere because this is an integral component of the Immigration attorney-client relationship.

Each and every US Embassy or US Consulate is under the jurisdiction of the US Department of State and not the Department of Homland Security. Therefore, a G-28 has no bearing on these organs of government, but the US Embassy will correspond with an attorney in matters pertaining to a visa application if the attorney is licensed to practice in the USA. That being said, generally the Embassies and Consulates will not deal with unlicensed so-called “lawyers,” and as a result, such an individual can be of little assistance in processing US visa applications.

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