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Should you hire an attorney or do it yourself?

US Immigration Question:

I am planning to marry a US citizen this spring. Can we file the petition by ourselves? Or is it better to have an attorney represent our case? Please give me an advise.


The Immigration and Naturalization Service does not require that aliens who are requesting a green card to be represented by an attorney. However, many people decide to hire an attorney because the process can be frustrating and stressful. Before you decide to do it yourself consider that the processing time is in excess of 15 months for cases like yours. During this time the law will probably change a number of times which could affect your situation. If you have a lawyer he will constantly monitor your case and adjust it according to current law.

Another reason to consider hiring an US Immigration lawyer is because he will understand how the process works in Los Angeles. When can you apply for a work authorization card? How do you renew it if it expires? What will you do if you lose the first work card? Do you know when you can apply for a permit that allows you to travel internationally while your case is pending? What are the potential consequences if you do travel? Where do you go to get the travel document? What will you do if you think your case has been lost by the INS? When do you need to get your medical exam? What exactly do you need to bring to your interview? What will you do if you move from the address listed on the US Immigration forms? (Of course there is a postcard that you can fill out to get the INS to update your file with the new address, but what do you think the chances are that your file will actually be updated?)

If you are interested in applying for your green card by yourself, and you feel that you are eligible to apply for your interview at the INS in Los Angeles you should call the INS and request that the US Immigration forms be sent to your house. The number is 1-800-870-3676. After receiving the forms review them. If you have questions contact the INS public inquiry hotline at (213) 526- 7647. If you have questions and want to ask an INS officer in person, visit the INS at 300 North Los Angeles Street in downtown Los Angeles. Go to Room 1001.

If you decide to hire an attorney it is important to find a knowledgeable and honest US Immigration attorney. Most
US Immigration attorneys who concentrate their practice in the area of US Immigration law are members of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Call AILA at (202) 371-9377 to confirm that the attorney that you are considering is a member. In addition, make sure that you feel comfortable with the attorney, that he answers your questions in simple language, you don't feel rushed during consultations, and that all phone calls are returned within 24 hours. Finally, if you ever lose confidence or trust in your attorney, change immediately.