Immigration law is complicated. Right after the U.S. Tax Code, the Immigration and Nationality Act is the second most dense, ever-changing, frustrating body of law.
Immigration laws have ageing-out deadlines, mental intent when filing criteria, categories, quotas, lotteries, complicated formulas and all of those elements can be found in just one petition!
Yet, in spite of the above, I love my chosen work!
Like many immigration lawyers, I have been on both sides of the desk. I petitioned for my immigrant fiance (now husband) to become a LPR. And as an immigration lawyer for over 10 years, I’ve assisted U.S. citizens with bringing their foreign-born love ones to the U.S. to “live, love, learn and earn in the U.S.” And through it all, I’ve learned that you can get through the immigration experience in tact. Allow me to share…
- If you can, hire an able immigration lawyer. We did. This one tip alone can balance the scales. The immigration lawyer who exclusively practice in your area of immigration need will not only be up-to-date in her immigration practice area and strategize with you accordingly, she will also adeptly handle the heavy administrative process of your petitions. Do your homework and ask around for a lawyer that fits the above bill.
- Once you have hired your “temporary best friend (you will be working very closely for the next 6 months to a year),” in a timely manner, provide to your lawyer all of the paperwork, documents, and information that is requested of you. And about the “information” part. Though the lawyer’s questionnaire may be long and personal, she needs your honest answers in order to: plan your personal immigration strategy, b. efficiently complete the many forms, c. have your information at her fingertips when she is communicating with the government on your behalf and d. charge a fair price for her services. And yes, I will admit the questionnaire and the gathering of documents is the least glamorous part of the process but it is oh so necessary!
- Sometimes it’s difficult for clients to understand that once petitions are properly filed and requests for more evidence and follow-up letters have been satisfied and mailed, the lawyer has no control over government processing times, period! The USCIS is understaffed…U.S. Consulates–the same. Practice patience. I know that’s easier said than done. Remember I was on the other side of the desk and to speed up the process, I took a road trip from Manhattan to Albany, NY to personally pick up a copy of my certified marriage certificate. The certified copy of my certificate was waiting for me in my mailbox when I returned from Albany that evening. True story.
- Even with the most able immigration lawyer working with the most “ on paper perfect couple,” delays (please see number 3 above) and denials happen. (Your immigration lawyer can assist you with all delays and an unfortunate denial.) So don’t make life altering plans until your petition has been approved. Do not buy plane tickets, do not sell or buy property, do not quit your job; do not withdraw from school in anticipation of receiving an approval.
- Be honest with your immigration lawyer. That’s the only way the process is going to work. Past arrests and convictions must be divulged to your immigration lawyer. The government will investigate you and your fiance or spouse. You want to neutralize all red flag issues on the front end of your petition. I have found in my visa practice that when I have knowledge of and contextualize red-flag issues in the narratives in support of a client’s petition (using my successful “Get Out in Front of the Petition” strategy), those red flag issues are viewed more favorably by the government.
This is not an exhaustive list. But it’s a good start. If you use the above pointers your immigration experience can be memorable for good reasons!
Jamene, the Fiance Spouse Visa Lawyer