The immigration process is one that can impact your life significantly. In most cases one’s immigration matter plays a significant part in one’s life goals. For example, clients often intend to establish or further their career by working in the United States, or desire to make a new life for themselves by residing in the U.S. permanently. Thus, the underlying objectives associated with each immigration matter are more often than not a long-term ambition that should be taken seriously.
In light of your immigration matter being of significant importance, it is vital that your case is not mishandled. There are literally a myriad of consequences that can result from the mishandling of your case due to the absence of adequate legal counsel. Such consequences include a delay in the processing of your visa application, rejection of your application, criminal penalties imputed to your sponsoring employer, or even banishment from the U.S.
Despite the high stakes that are often involved in U.S. immigration matters, many individuals insist on handling their cases without the assistance of counsel. The reason for this is that, unlike certain other areas of law, most U.S. immigration matters can be administered through applications to and correspondence with federal agencies. Thus, not having to actually appear before a judge in a court room makes the immigration process appear that much more manageable.
Another reason prospective immigrants and non-immigrants often elect to handle their own case is because of the accessibility of immigration information on the internet. Numerous websites and “immigration kits” provide details on the procedure for obtaining visas and other helpful information relating to U.S. immigration. The problem is these sources of information all too often oversimplify the procedure involved in certain matters or fail to provide critical information. These sources often give readers the impression that each immigration matter exists in a vacuum and are governed only by the relevant statutory provision that introduced the status in the first place. However, quite the opposite is true.
For example, a “visa kit” may provide a checklist of criteria that must be met for one to obtain a TN visa, and thus give the impression that if one meets the considerations within the checklist they are eligible for a TN. However, the kit may not mention that, as a non-immigrant applicant, a prospective TN visa-holder must ensure they are not inadmissible under any of the grounds listed in Form DS-156/160, or that if their children or accompanying spouse is not a citizen of a NAFTA member country they will have to undergo a procedure that is different from what is usually required, or, despite the fact that a passport is not usually a requirement for TN applicants, it is required if you are coming from a country outside of the western hemisphere, or that the cap for Mexican TN applicants has been removed, and so on. The point being, though certain aspects of U.S. immigration law may be procedure based, and thus involve the compilation and submission of documentation, it is no different from the practice of any other area of law in that involves in-depth knowledge of statutes and relevant legal principles.
The great irony behind the phenomena of individuals attempting to handle their own U.S. immigration cases without the assistance of counsel lies in the fact that immigration is one of the most complex areas of U.S. federal law. Below are some quotations from federal court judges that speak to the complexity of U.S. immigration law:
“With only a small degree of hyperbole, the immigration laws have been termed ‘second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.’ A lawyer is often the only person who could thread the labyrinth.” – E. Hull, Without Justice For All 107 (1985).
“Immigration laws bear a “striking resemblance …[to] King Minos’s labyrinth in ancient Crete. The Tax Laws and the Immigration and Nationality Acts are examples we have cited of Congress’s ingenuity in passing statutes certain to accelerate the aging process of judges.” – Lok v. INS.
“Immigration law is a mystery and a mastery of obfuscation, and the lawyers who can figure it out are worth their weight in gold.” – Karen Kraushaar from Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The complexity of federal statutes that govern U.S. immigration law, and the frequent changes in U.S. immigration rules, are probably the reason most U.S. immigration attorneys focus their practice on immigration exclusively.
It is true that there are cases that could, and probably should be handled without a lawyer. However, for cases where the attainment of lawful status is of high importance, it is our opinion that the benefit of hiring a lawyer who is an expert in U.S. immigration law outweighs the costs.