Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘US lawyer’

6th June 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the Department of Justice, in association with the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is taking measures to combat scams involving immigration services for those wishing to travel to the USA . To quote directly from a recent announcement posted upon the official website of the Department of Justice, Justice.gov:

Federal Agencies Combat Immigration Services Scams
DHS, DOJ and FTC Collaborate with State and Local Partners in Unprecedented Effort

WASHINGTON—The U.S. government will unveil a national initiative to combat immigration services scams on June 9 at 1 p.m. The Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are leading this historic effort.
DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the lead agency responsible for administering the U.S. legal immigration system, will announce the initiative while hosting events in seven cities around the country as well as the national launch in Washington, D.C.

The unauthorized practice of immigration law is an exploitative practice that endangers the integrity of our immigration system and victimizes members of the immigrant community. Understanding the gravity of this deceptive practice, federal, state and local partners have come together to combat immigration services scams on all fronts. The initiative is set upon three pillars: enforcement, education, and continued collaboration. Each agency plays a critical role to ensure the success of this national effort. This initiative exemplifies how government and community can work together to effectively address a serious problem…

The administration of this web log encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to learn more about the Justice Department’s recently announced initiative.

Unfortunately, there are many less-than-reputable organizations in jurisdictions such as those which comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other locales around the world falsely purporting to have the necessary qualifications to provide advice, counsel, and assistance pertaining to United States visas and immigration.

Processing a United States visa can be a cumbersome and overwhelming process for those unfamiliar with relevant immigration law and procedure. Those thinking about retaining an American lawyer to assist in the acquisition of visas such as the CR-1 visa, IR-1 visa, K-1 visa, EB-5 visa, or L-1 visa (to name just a few visa categories) are encouraged to ascertain the credentials of those claiming knowledge of such matters. This is encouraged because only properly licensed attorneys are permitted to accept fees to engage in the practice of U.S. immigration law pursuant to 8 CFR 292.1.

In general, before a visa applicant can undergo Consular Processing at US Mission abroad (US Embassy, US Consulate, American Institute, etc) they must first receive an approved petition from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

For related information please see: US Visa Thailand or Legal.

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5th June 2011

This posting discusses the issues associated with retaining an American attorney to assist with the K-1 visa process. Those thinking about retaining assistance in the K-1 visa process are well advised to conduct thorough research prior to making any irrevocable decisions.

The K-1 visa is a non-immigrant US fiance visa which was intended to be used solely by the foreign fiances of American Citizens. The K-1 visa allows the foreign fiancee of an American Citizen to enter the United States for a period of 90 days of the purpose of marriage. Those who do not marry their American fiance after 90 days in the USA will be required to depart from the USA. Readers should bear in mind that the entrant to the United States on a K-1 visa who marries their loved one must undergo the adjustment of status process in order to gain lawful permanent residence in the U.S.A.

The purpose of this article is to provide insight to Americans about the perils of dealing with non-licensed individuals who purport to be qualified to practice United States Immigration law (or any American law, for that matter) . Pursuant to 8 CFR 292.1 only a qualified lawyer licensed to practice law in at least one U.S. State or Federal jurisdiction is entitled to engage in the receiving of client fees in connection with the practice of United States immigration law. Therefore, those not so qualified must either fit within a narrow exception to the aforementioned rule lest their behavior be deemed to be illegal. It should be noted that attorney-client confidentiality is a significant issue which should be considered when ascertaining the credentials of those claiming qualification in United States immigration matters abroad as there are many so-called “visa agents” or “immigration consultants” claiming qualification to provide services in connection with U.S. immigration. Attorney-client privilege is not extended to those not qualified as an American attorney and therefore discussions with unqualified individuals are likely not privileged communications. Meanwhile, some individuals brazenly, albeit falsely, portray themselves as American attorneys when, in fact, this is simply not the case.

For all of the reasons outlined above it should be noted that only a competent licensed attorney from the United States should be retained to assist prospective clients. Readers should understand that this message is not conveyed as an advertisement of this particular blogger’s services, as this is not this blogger’s intention in creating this posting. Instead, this post should be viewed as a reminder to readers that this decision should be made by prospective clients after serious contemplation and thorough research of all possible candidates for an attorney position. Attorney-Client relationships are not “one size fits-all” and neither is quality legal service. Therefore, the public should conduct research before coming to an informed decision about hiring an attorney.

For related information please see: K1 Visa Thailand or K1 Visa Cambodia.

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3rd May 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the media mogul and Mayor of the City of New York Michael Bloomberg has been noted for remarks about the beneficial aspects of immigration to America. To quote directly from the website myfoxny.com:

WASHINGTON – Detroit should take a page from Lady Liberty and shine a beacon of welcome to immigrants as a way to overcome its severe population loss, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

For those who follow this blog with any frequency it should be noted that New York has recently seen efforts by the attorney generals of that State to decrease the amount of immigration fraud in the form of illegitimate operators claiming expertise in U.S. immigration matters. It would appear that the city of Detroit has encountered much economic turbulence as a result of recent economic downturns. Meanwhile, there can be significant benefits to a national economy to be had through effective immigration policies. To quote further from the aforementioned article:

Bloomberg’s prescription for Detroit’s salvation came in a discussion about what he called a “crisis of confidence” among business people about the nation’s economy. Bloomberg said the “most obvious” answer is to encourage immigration.

“This is a country that was built by immigrants … that became a superpower because of its immigrant population, and unless we continue to have immigrants, we cannot maintain as a superpower,” he said.

Virtually all Americans are descended from those who immigrated to the United States of America. In a modern context, there are many visa categories available to prospective immigrants who are interested in conducting business in America. For example, the EB-5 visa provides lawful permanent residence to the visa holder upon lawful admission to the United States. Furthermore, the E-2 visa may allow for non-immigrant visa benefits to those foreign nationals conducting business pursuant to a Treaty with the United States. In the context of Thailand, there may be visa benefits which can be acquired pursuant to the bi-lateral relationship between the USA and Thailand as codified in agreements such as the US-Thai Treaty of Amity. Some may be eligible for similar benefits in the form of the E-1 visa. Those working for a multi-national organization may be eligible to obtain an L-1 visa as an intra-company transferee either in the form of an L-1A visa or an L-1B visa, depending upon the factual circumstances of the case.

Clearly, there are benefits to be accrued to those immigrating to the USA. Concurrently, there may also be benefits to the American economy and the American People as a result of immigration to the USA by foreign nationals.

For related information please see: US lawyer or US business visa.

 

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19th September 2010

This author has frequently discussed the myriad problems that Immigrants can face when dealing with an unlicensed American immigration “agent” or “specialist“. American law and Federal Regulations are clear regarding the issue of who is allowed to provide legal services in matters arising before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) specifically; or any of the other agencies which are overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Only licensed attorneys from the United States of America are able to provide consultations about US Immigration matters for a fee. Furthermore, only an attorney licensed by the Highest Court of least one US State, Commonwealth, or outlying territory is allowed charge fees to represent clients before DHS, including USCIS.

Unfortunately, there are some unauthorized organizations throughout the world claiming to be able to provide advice and assistance in American Immigration matters. The internet has proven to be a great tool for those wishing to research matters pertaining to United States Immigration. Meanwhile, it has also provided a platform for some operations which claim legal expertise without appropriate training or licensure. Such individuals and entities ought to be avoided at all costs since information transmitted to such individuals and entities may not be protected by the usual legal protections accorded to communications conveyed between an American attorney and their client. Furthermore, one who is not legally trained or not licensed to provide legal services in a given jurisdiction or about a particular subject cannot provide effective counsel nor lawful confidentiality to those seeking their assistance. This can be especially important to those conveying sensitive information about a case pending before an immigration tribunal, agency, US Embassy, or US Consulate abroad. Those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in the aforementioned manner are thereby placing their own interests, as well as those of their unsuspecting “clients’”, in jeopardy.

When comparing the costs of legal service it is important to understand the pivotal role of licensure when making a decision to retain counsel. No licensed legal professional is likely to have a problem with prospective clients shopping for a reasonably priced service with a professional that they feel comfortable dealing with. In general, licensed American attorneys find that competition with other professionals makes for a healthy and prosperous business environment, but to compare the services of a licensed American immigration attorney with one who is not licensed to practice law creates a false comparison as US law is clear that those without licensure cannot provide the services which they claim they can provide in an immigration context. In short: one cannot compare a legal service with an illegal service from a price standpoint as an illegal service provider simply cannot provide such services at any price.

For further information please see: licensed lawyer. To learn more about US Immigration from Southeast Asia please see: US Immigration Law Thailand.

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9th September 2010

The American Department of State’s website can be a useful resource for those interested in US Immigration. That said, there are many repositories of good information throughout the internet and some less-than-ideal resources. The following announcement was posted on the website of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

Due to technical software problems, the Department of State’s “Visa Policy Updates” page of their website is currently unavailable for updates. Please note: the webpage itself is currently available; however, it does not include recent updates by DOS. Until further notice, Visa Policy Updates will not be sent to subscribers, but many documents still can be found on the Department of State website at the Visa Policy Update page.

The Department of State is responsible for administering the various American Missions located abroad. These include American Embassies, Consulates, and Institutes located in Asia. Many find that information on the Department of State can be very helpful when trying to decide what type of visa is most suitable for an individual wishing to travel to the United States of America.

Some Embassies and Consulates are considered to be so-called “high volume” Posts.  In matters involving US Immigration, this appellation could be applied to the US Embassy Thailand or the US Consulate HCMC as these posts handle a larger caseload of American Immigration matters compared to some of their counterparts in Southeast Asia.  That said, adjudications of visa applications are conducted by an officer at the US Embassy or US Consulate with jurisdiction over the proposed beneficiary.  Such an adjudication is made pursuant to relevant US Immigration law and based upon the Consular Officer’s findings of fact. Each case is adjudicated based upon the unique set of facts in the case. Therefore, the rather general information which is provided on various websites throughout the internet, both government sponsored and privately funded, cannot necessarily be relied upon as definitive for every situation.

American Embassies and Consulates process a large number of visa applications each year. As each adjudication is different there is effectively no way of providing uniform information about the visa application adjudication process. Those interested in obtaining a visa to the USA are well advised to contact a US lawyer with experience dealing with United States Immigration as such an individual can provide relevant insight into the visa process and advise clients as to the appropriate visa category based upon the client’s circumstances.

For related information please see: USCIS Processing Times.

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30th April 2010

Repeatedly, this author uses this blog as a platform to try to educate the public regarding the US visa process and the problems that can arise during that process. In many cases, people are simply unaware of the rules regarding US visa issuance and this blog attempts to provide relevant information that readers may find beneficial. That being said, another frequently discussed topic is the unauthorized practice of law by “visa companies” and “visa agents” or those claiming to be American attorneys. This is not simply a tirade against such practices, but is intended to provide information regarding the detrimental impact that these individuals can have upon the interests of their “clients”.

Under section 292.1 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations a licensed attorney is entitled to represent clients before the United States Department of Homeland Security, specifically the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) which is tasked with adjudicating US visa petitions. Many are unaware of the fact that those who assist individuals in preparing visa petitions are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if they are not: licensed to practice law in at least one US jurisdiction while being eligible to practice law in all US jurisdictions or certified by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).

Licensure is no small matter, especially for those individuals who are “represented” by those claiming to be attorneys who are not, in fact, licensed. For example, if an American talks to an unlicensed individual about sensitive matters, then such communications would not be confidential and also would not be protected under the attorney/client privilege. If one is communicating in confidence to a licensed attorney, then such communication is “out of bounds” for US Courts. However, the same communications with one who is unlicensed could be used as evidence in a US court proceeding. Therefore, licensure is extremely important particularly in US Immigration matters involving a legal ground of inadmissibility or an I-601 waiver as certain information could be very detrimental to clients’ interests and if imparted to a licensed American attorney would be confidential, but if imparted to an unlicensed “fly by night” operator such information could be used against the client at a later date.

For all of these reasons, when an American is outside of the USA it is always prudent to check the credentials of anyone claiming to be an attorney from the United States. An individual can provide adequate credentials if they can show their license to practice law before at least on State Supreme Court in the US, or a Federal license to practice law in the USA, or a license to practice law in one of the US territorial jurisdictions (Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, etc). Anyone who refuses to provide any such credentials and yet still asserts that they are an American attorney should be avoided until proof of credentials can be provided.

For further information about US Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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29th April 2010

In a recent case that was heard and adjudicated by the United States Supreme Court, the issue of Immigrants’ right to counsel was taken up and the outcome of the case resulted in a landmark opinion and a watershed moment for the rights of Immigrants in the United States of America. The case is known as Padilla v. Kentucky, the following quote comes from an email from the Law Corporation of Alice M. Yardum-Hunter:

The case involved a 40-year permanent resident, Jose Padilla, whose criminal defense lawyer advised him not to worry about the immigration consequences of pleading guilty to a crime. That advice was not only wrong but the guilty plea subjected Mr. Padilla to mandatory deportation from the United States. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that Mr. Padilla had no right to withdraw his plea when he learned of the deportation consequence. The Supreme Court reversed that decision and rejected the federal government’s position – also adopted by several other courts – that a noncitizen is protected only from “affirmative misadvice” and not from a lawyer’s failure to provide any advice about the immigration consequences of a plea. The Court held that Mr. Padilla’s counsel was constitutionally deficient and affirmed that immigrants should not be held accountable when they rely on incorrect advice from their lawyers or where counsel fails to provide any immigration advice at all.

The implications of this case are important for attorneys practicing in the United States as they will now be required to provide advice about the legal consequences of certain activities from an Immigration perspective.

This is also important for those American Immigration Lawyers practicing outside of the United States. For example, if an individual with lawful permanent residence in the United States is abroad and learns of a pending criminal warrant or fugitive warrant, then that individual may choose to retain the advice of a US lawyer outside of the United States. In that case, the lawyer would be required, under the provisions of this recently adjudicated decision, to provide advice regarding the immigration consequences of a guilty plea in a pending criminal matter.

This example illustrates one more reason why it is so important to retain the advice of an individual who is licensed to practice law in the USA. This is particularly important in a country such as Thailand where the existence of “visa companies,” “visa agents,” and unlicensed and non-accredited so-called “lawyers” and “attorneys” operate with little oversight. Many are unaware of the implications of a criminal pleading in an immigration context and this ignorance can lead to unforeseen difficulties for US Immigrants overseas.

For information about United States Immigration from Thailand please see: K1 Visa Thailand.

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