10 Tips to Prepare for Your First Consultation

This is the second of a three-part series on seeking legal immigration advice. This post will discuss 10 Tips to Prepare for Your First Consultation with an Immigration Lawyer. The first post points out things to be wary of as you begin your research. The third will list questions you should ask your lawyer to determine if he or she is the right fit.

Prepare in advance before meeting with a potential attorney. Take the following actions:

1. Get referrals to attorneys. Reach out to colleagues, family and friends. If they don’t know any immigration attorneys themselves, they might know someone who has retained an immigration lawyer. Find out whether he or she would recommend that attorney. If possible, get more than one recommendation. You should interview more than one attorney before deciding whom to hire. You can also find local, licensed immigration attorneys on the state bar’s website. Don’t hire an immigration attorney who hangs around Immigration Court to solicit business. This is unethical.

2. Gather all the documents relevant to your case and make copies for your attorney. That includes your birth certificate, visas or visa applications, passports, marriage certificate, and any letters from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and any documents you were given when you entered the United States.

3. If you have a criminal record, bring copies of all police and court documents. Do not try to conceal this information. U.S. immigration authorities will likely take your fingerprints at some point; your past misdeeds will be discovered, and you might lose your case because you lied.

4. Write down dates, events and circumstances important to your case, such as why you left your country and if you have a sponsor in the United States. If you are seeking asylum, for example, write down specific dates of past occurrences, and the names of any known perpetrators or other victims. Include any potential witnesses on your behalf.

5. Fill out any forms the lawyer has provided asking for basic information. Bring it to the meeting or send it back to the lawyer ahead of time, if requested.

6. Give the attorney as much information as possible to avoid mistakes in strategy or unpleasant surprises later on. Share every detail you have about your case, good or bad. Whatever you say to your attorney is confidential. However, don’t expect your attorney to lie for you.

7. Write down the questions you want to ask the attorney when you visit. (We’ll cover questions to ask in an upcoming blog.)

8. If you’re uncertain about your skills in the English language, find out whether the attorney can speak your language. Or ask the attorney whether you can bring someone with you to translate.

9. Know whether the attorney charges for the first meeting or initial consultation. If so, bring a credit card or checkbook to pay him or her.

10. Be completely honest with your attorney. Immigration law is complex and has many different pitfalls for the unwary. If you are not honest with your attorney, you might miss out on an opportunity, or find yourself in a situation you did not intend. Remember, any information you share with your attorney is confidential.

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