How much will it cost to hire an immigration lawyer?
Many claimants needing an immigration lawyer may not have much money to spend. With this in mind, many immigration lawyers charge less than other lawyers in other specialties or have payment plans for their clients. Regardless of how your lawyer expects to be paid, it's important to review the contract, which is a legal document, prior to signing it.
Additionally, the immigration lawyer's fee is not always an indication of competence. Some expensive immigration lawyers who are not experienced may charge a high fee; others who are quite good may charge less. Immigration lawyers who charge too little may also not have the staff and resources they need to do work for you.
Costs for hiring an immigration lawyer
Many immigration lawyers charge a flat fee or hourly rate which can range from $100 to $300 per hour. Others will charge a set fee for the services which they provide. For example, they may charge $300 to $700 to complete basic immigration forms or $2,000 to $3,000 to complete a full visa packet. Fees could be much more if the case is very complicated and the lawyer has a great deal of experience. Location can also increase the costs.
Some lawyers will also require their claimants to pay a retainer fee up front when the contract is signed. The retainer fee may be a percentage of the agreed upon fee or it may equal several hours of work. The attorney will then subtract the costs of their work against the retainer and bill you when the retainer has been depleted.
What if you cannot afford to pay high fees?
Given the large amount of information online you may be considering filing your own immigration petition or using online information to avoid hiring a lawyer, especially if you do not have money to hire a lawyer. Unfortunately, immigration petitions or forms which are not completed correctly can delay or even destroy your chance at obtaining immigration benefits. A great lawyer has the right knowledge about immigration law to ensure your petition is complete and well-prepared.
What if you do not have money to pay your immigration lawyer? Some immigration lawyers may be willing to act in an advisory role, allowing you to complete most of the forms or the immigration petitions then reviewing them to ensure they are done properly.
Beware of "immigration consultants" who offer immigration services, charging an extremely low price for their help. Some of these providers may be fine, but they are not licensed immigration lawyers and do not have ethical obligations imposed by the State Bar Association.
Will the immigration lawyer charge for the initial consultation?
The initial consultation is critical to your case. It allows an immigration lawyer to review the details of your case, answer your questions, outline general costs and give you an estimate for the length of time it may take to resolve your immigration issues. Other valuable information supplied at the initial immigration consultation include: a discussion of the possible outcomes of your case, a review of the history of immigration law, and a review of critical immigration documentation. Some immigration lawyers will charge a fee for an initial consultation others will not. If a fee is charged, it generally costs about $100.
Will I have to pay any additional costs other than the fee to hire the lawyer?
As mentioned above, all fees and costs should be discussed and clarified prior to signing the legal contract to hire a lawyer. But do not be confused about the term "fees," which will include the professional charges to hire a lawyer, and the "costs," which could be in addition to the fees and include charges such as filing fees charged by the U.S. Immigration Service, charges for express mail, photocopying, long-distance charges, etc. Before signing the contract ask your attorney what is included with the quoted price and an estimate of the other expenses not included.
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What questions should I ask my immigration lawyer?
The first question to ask your immigration lawyer is how long they have been practicing immigration law.