Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration Lawyer’

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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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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23rd October 2009

Recently the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that a revised form has been issued for those who wish to file for an I-601 Waiver. An I-601 waiver is a waiver of legal grounds of inadmissibility under the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. An alien is found inadmissible if they meet the elements of inadmissibility under the act. Common grounds of inadmissibility among applicants in Thailand are overstay, prostitution, Crimes involving moral turpitude, and health related grounds. If a finding that one of these grounds exists is made by the Consular or Immigration officers, then the applicant must seek an I-601 waiver before they will be entitled to enter the United State lawfully.

In recent days, USCIS has been revising some of the forms that they will accept in connection with certain immigration matters. For example, USCIS recently announced that they will only be accepting an updated version of the G28 Notice of Attorney Appearance. Those who have already filed applications for Immigration benefits before this update comes into effect will not need to submit any new forms as the service will continue to recognize the old forms in an effort to seamlessly transition from the old forms to the new. These efforts seem to be an attempt to streamline the, somewhat complicated, administrative aspects of the US Immigration application process. To quote directly from the USCIS press release:

USCIS has revised Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Revision Date 04/06/09 N, OMB Expiration Date 04/30/11) to make it easier for applicants to complete. Applicants may now select from a list of grounds of inadmissibility on the form itself and mark all which apply to them in order to request a waiver. In addition to the list, the form includes a section where applicants can describe, in their own words, why they believe they are inadmissible. In the previous edition of Form I-601, information about grounds of inadmissibility could only be found of the form’s instructions.

We applaud the efforts on the part of the Service to make this process less complicated and more straightforward. For those interested in submitting a successful I-601 waiver application, it should be remembered that in most cases involving an I-601 waiver, the applicant(s) must show that to deny the waiver would result in an “extreme hardship” to a United States Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. This can be a difficult legal obstacle to overcome which is why it may be wise to retain an immigration lawyer to assist with the preparation and submission of such a petition.

Unlike the United States Embassy in Bangkok, which only has jurisdiction ovr the Kingdom of Thailand. The local USCIS office in Bangkok has administrative jurisdiction over most of Asia. Therefore, I-601 waiver applications filed in connection with a K1 visa, K3 visa, or CR1 visa sought from Asia could be submitted at USCIS Bangkok.

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25th September 2009

On this blog we often try to point out the difference between retaining the services of a licensed American Immigration lawyer and using a “fly by night” operator posing as a lawyer or calling himself an “Immigration Consultant.” In recent years, the United States government and various state governments have taken a firm stand by increasing their diligence in stamping out the activities of these scam artists. In a recent development a person in Virginia was arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for fraud based upon the fact that they stole 1 million US dollars while claiming to be a competent specialist in the field of immigration.

The scam artist in question, “was sentenced last week to 41 months in prison for defrauding vulnerable immigrant applicants of approximately $1 million from June 2000 through December 2005.”

The above linked article further noted what is seen by some as something of a new attitude in the Federal law enforcement community with regard to Immigration fraud:

“Immigration fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] uproots the infrastructure of illegal immigration by detecting and deterring immigration fraud.”

This situation further highlights the need to conduct due diligence in order to make certain that a person claiming to be an Immigration specialist is truly certified to handle United States Immigration cases. Many confused Americans often ask, “How can I ensure that my Thai fiancee and I are dealing with a reputable attorney who is licensed to practice American Immigration law?”

Even in cases where an individual claims that they are an attorney, it is always wise to ask to see a license to practice law from at least one US state or US territory. Seeing this document will provide evidence that the person one deals with is, in fact, a lawyer. Further, it might be beneficial to further inquire as to the “lawyer’s” educational background. Make certain that they not only graduated from an ABA (American Bar Association) accredited law school, but that they passed the bar in at least one state, territory, or district in the USA. Any licensed attorney should also be registered in their state’s Supreme Court database or with their state bar association.

An unfortunate fact regarding the hiring of an unlicensed “lawyer” or “consultant” is that those type of operators are not bound by any type of ethical code. Licensed attorneys must comport their behavior to an ethical standard and are therefore obligated to do no harm to their clients. This code of conduct is not imposed upon those with no license to practice law.

Unfortunately the internet has played a role in the proliferation of so-called “visa companies,” and unlicensed lawyers. With that in mind, the prospective applicants should insist upon seeing a license in order to ensure they are dealing with a reputable operator.

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