Immigration : Introduction to Immigration Law

How can I find out more about immigration?
Visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to learn more about:

  • Citizenship

  • Lawful permanent residency

  • Family- and employment-related immigration

  • Employment authorization

  • Inter-country adoptions

  • Asylum and refugee status

  • Replacement immigration documents

  • Foreign student authorization

Do I need an attorney to handle my immigration issues?
You may choose to be represented by an attorney or accredited representative when filing applications or petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). But, you should be aware of the following information to help protect yourself from fraudulent activities committed by individuals posing as attorneys or accredited representatives.

  1. If you choose to have a representative when filing an application or petition with USCIS, you may be represented by an attorney or an accredited representative of a recognized organization.

  2. A representative must file a “NOTICE OF ENTRY OF APPEARANCE AS ATTORNEY OR REPRESENTATIVE” (Form G-28) along with the application or petition.

  3. In matters filed within the United States, only attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate on your behalf to USCIS and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition.

  4. If you are filing an application or petition at an office outside the United States, you may be represented by an attorney admitted to the practice of law in that country.

If you need legal advice about an immigration matter but cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may be able to ask an attorney, an association of immigration lawyers, a state bar association, or an organization specially -accredited to provide such assistance about the availability of free or reduced cost legal services on immigration issues.

What credentials should my attorney have when representing me?
Attorneys must be a member in good standing of the “bar” of a U.S. State (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. Attorneys will check the first block on Form G-28 and must provide information regarding their admission to practice. The best way to protect yourself is to ask to see the current attorney licensing document for the attorney, make a note of the admission number if any, and to contact the State bar admission authorities to verify the information. A lawfully admitted attorney should honor your request for this information, as State Bar practice rules require disclosure of this information to clients. You may also access this information through that States bar website. Before you pay attorney fees for help with your immigration case, make sure that the individual is a licensed attorney.

What do accredited representatives do?
Accredited representatives must work for a Recognized Organization in order to be eligible to represent you before USCIS and file a Form G-28. They may be authorized to practice before the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and/or USCIS. The best way to protect yourself is to ask to see a copy of the BIA decision granting official recognition to the Accredited Representative and Recognized Organization. An accredited representative of a recognized organization should honor your request. Recognized organizations may only charge nominal (inexpensive) fees, if any, for providing services in immigration matters. An accredited representative of a recognized organization should honor your request. You may also check the Recognition Accreditation Roster maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR.)

Important information regarding notarios, notary publics and immigration consultants
Notarios, notary publics and immigration consultants may NOT represent you before USCIS. They may not give you legal advice on what immigration benefit you may apply for or what to say in an immigration interview. These individuals may NOT hold themselves out as qualified in legal matters or in immigration and naturalization procedure and may only charge nominal (inexpensive) fees as regulated by state law. In many other countries, the word "notario" means that the individual is an attorney, but that is not true in the United States. Individuals seeking help with immigration questions should be very careful before paying money to non-attorneys.

Notary publics and immigration consultants MAY help you by filling in the blanks on pre-printed USCIS forms with information you provide or by translating documents. Individuals helping you in this way are required by law to disclose to USCIS their assistance by completing the section at the bottom of a petition or application concerning the "Preparer" of the form.

How do I protect myself from becoming a victim?

1. DO NOT sign blank applications, petitions or other papers.

2. DO NOT sign documents that you do not understand.

3. DO NOT sign documents that contain false statements or inaccurate information.

4. DO NOT make payments to a representative without getting a receipt.

5. DO NOT pay expensive fees to non-attorneys.

6. DO obtain copies of all documents prepared or submitted for you.

7. DO verify an attorney’s or accredited representative’s eligibility to represent you.

8. DO report any representative’s unlawful activity to USCIS, State Bar Associations and/or State Offices of Attorneys General.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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