I have successfully represented countless husbands, wives, fiancees, and family members on I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waivers, I-601A Provisional Waivers, I-212 Waivers, and 212(d)(3) Non-Immigrant Waivers since 2002.
I have also obtained approval for K-1 Fiancee Visas, K-3 Spouse Visas, Family-based Immigrant Visas, and Adjustments of Status for clients that come from countries throughout the world and reside in cities across the United States.
During this time, I have interacted with practically every type of client.
While there are numerous tips offered to potential clients on how to hire the right immigration attorney for your case (specific and in-depth experience handling your type of case; membership in the American Immigration Lawyers Association; attorney’s academic and professional background that ensures a certain level of professionalism and competence; lawyer’s adept use of technology such as e-mail, video conferences, digital scanning, immigration forms management software, blogging, etc.), it is just as important that an immigration client does whatever he or she can to help in the successful resolution of their legal matter.
Here are things that you can do to make yourself a client that immigration attorneys will LOVE:
- Appoint one person as the “lead contact” for your lawyer. For example, if you are a husband and wife, then choose one person who is the primary person to e-mail, telephone, and maintain contact with your lawyer. This way, there is one chain of communication to follow and everyone can stay on the same page as the case moves forward. A corollary to this is that the “lead contact” does his or her part to keep the other family member(s) up-to-date on communications with your lawyer and the status of your case.
- Read through the documents sent to you by your attorney before asking questions. When a case is opened, I always provide my clients with a detailed letter that describes the different phases of their immigration case. I also include a checklist of supporting documents to gather. For I-601, I-601A, I-212, and 212(d)(3) waiver cases, my clients are provided in-depth instructions and a “Waiver Worksheet” which goes over questions to answer about their lives as well as relevant documents to gather. It is very important to read over such documents carefully BEFORE you pose further questions to your lawyer.
- Provide your digitally scanned supporting documents in an organized manner. The supporting documents sent to your immigration lawyer should ideally be digitally scanned into PDF format and labelled with the an accurate title that describes its content. For example, PsychEvaluation.PDF would be the right way to forward a 12 page psychological evaluation. Sending that same document in 12 separate files, each one labelled Doc001.JPG, Doc002.JPG, Doc003.JPG is the WORST way you can send voluminous documents to your lawyer.
- Provide paper documents in an organized manner. The same principle applies if you mail documents to your immigration lawyer. A giant pile of bills, medical records, letters, court records, and immigration documents, sent without any sort of organization or labels makes it extremely difficult to sort through. Use paper clips to organize each type of document and put a sticky on it that describes what it is. For example, paper clip the 12-page psychological evaluation and put a sticky on it that states “Psychological Evaluation of Beth Davis from Dr. Michael Jones.”
- Send the supporting documents requested all at once. Related to the above, it is best to submit the supporting documents requested by your immigration lawyer in one single package (or e-mail) whenever possible. Sending documents piece-meal so that one document is received on Tuesday, another on Friday, then another two weeks later, can delay processing of your case and subject you to the unpredictable nature of the US postal system.
- Answer all the questions requested on client questionnaires. If your lawyer is having you fill out a client questionnaire, answer ALL OF IT. Every single question. If it is being asked, it is probably important to answer. Do not skip a question because you do not have ready access to the information. Look it up and if the information is impossible to obtain, say so on the questionnaire (by writing “Unknown” or “Unavailable”).
- Avoid sending 10 emails when 1 will do. I have had a few clients send me 10-15 emails in one day, each email asking me a question that is often repetitive. While I offer unlimited consultations to my clients throughout their case, it is important to realize that lawyers need time to focus and work on cases. If you do have multiple questions, send them in one email, with each question labelled with a number.
- Do not ask the same question over and over again. Many clients are stressed and sometimes distressed about the ultimate outcome of their immigration case. However, asking the same question repeatedly (e.g. “Do you think this case will be approved?”) is not a productive use of time for you or your attorney. It is far better to focus on gathering the supporting documents indicated to you by your attorney, organizing them in the best possible way, and responding to your attorney’s requests and questions in a prompt manner.
- “What is the status of my case?” or “How much longer until my case is approved?” These are two of the most common questions that immigration lawyers receive from their clients. If your lawyer filed a petition with the USCIS, you can check on its status by entering your USCIS case # here: USCIS Case Status Check. Average USCIS processing times can be checked here: USCIS Processing Times If your lawyer provided you a rough time frame for a decision on your case (e.g. 5 months for a decision once the I-601 Waiver or I-601A Provisional Waiver, is submitted), and 2 months have passed since filing, you can assume 3 months are left. There is probably no need to ask “How much longer?” to your immigration lawyer when simple subtraction will do (e.g. 5 months – 3 months = 2 months left).
- Do not treat or view your attorney as an adversary Part 1. There are a few clients who view gathering supporting documents requested by their lawyer or answering the questions posed to them as a burdensome chore. As a result, they simply ignore the request or respond in a haphazard manner. Their immigration lawyer then requests the missing documents or information over again. The client responds with antagonism (“I already sent you all that 2 weeks ago! When are you going to be finished?”) This can lead to a vicious cycle where the client-attorney relationships may be damaged. If your attorney asks you a question or requests a document, you can be fairly certain that it is IMPORTANT! Treat it with the priority it deserves because they are trying to HELP you.
- Do not treat or view your attorney as an adversary Part 2. The USCIS, the National Visa Center, and US embassies around the world are not the most efficient organizations around. There have been numerous instances of technical breakdowns or outright negligence on the part of government agencies and their employees throughout the years. If the timeline originally provided to you by your immigration lawyer slips because processing times have lengthened, try to avoid taking out your frustration on your immigration attorney. Timelines lengthen or shorten regularly and patience can be your greatest ally when trying to cope and deal with the US government bureaucracy.
- Pay your legal fees on time. Needless to say, if your immigration lawyer has offered you a payment plan, it is important to stick to it. Immigration lawyers do not want to be bill collectors, having to remind their clients of a late payment.
- Show you care and share. Great immigration lawyers usually get clients through word-of-mouth. With the popularity of Facebook and other social networks, client testimonials or reviews can now be shared with others in an easy way. I always appreciate clients who go to our official Facebook page and post a positive review. An immigration lawyer is far more likely to remember you and jump at the opportunity to answer your questions (for free) in the future if you do this.