Find out who can legally help with your immigration case, why having a lawyer is helpful, how to find a good lawyer, and your rights when searching for legal help. Visit our website for more info .jpg

 

Remember: It is important that you work with a trusted lawyer or accredited representative, so they can legally help you with your case and help you better understand the legal process. Working with a “notary” or anyone who is not authorized to give legal advice, can hurt your chances of gaining asylum or another legal status in the United States.

 

📑 This article covers 4 important topics that you should keep in mind when looking for an attorney to help you with your immigration case:

  1. Who can legally help me with my immigration case?
  2. What are the benefits to working with a lawyer?
  3. How can I find a good lawyer?
  4. What are my rights when I’m looking for a lawyer to work with?

1) Who can legally help me with my immigration case?

There are only two groups of people that can provide legal advice and help you with your immigration case:

  1. Lawyers. A lawyer (also known as an attorney) is someone who knows a lot about the laws and rules for people who want to stay in the U.S. legally. They can help explain these laws to you and answer any questions you might have. They are also someone you can trust to help you through the process, and everything you discuss with your lawyer will be private.
  2. Accredited representatives. A accredited representative is not an attorney, but they are recognized by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), and can represent you before both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration court if fully accredited.

⚠️ IMPORTANT: A notary is NOT a lawyer in the United States. Notaries cannot legally help you with your immigration case. In the US, a notary is someone who prevents fraud by reviewing documents and making sure they are real. If someone tells you they are a notary (“notario publico”) that can offer you legal help or advice, you should not trust or work with them.

2) What are the benefits to working with a lawyer?

Working with a lawyer can be very beneficial because they can:

  • Listen to your story: A lawyer listens to your story to better understand your situation, help determine which legal pathway is best for you, and help you tell your story to the people who make decisions about your case in immigration court.
  • Help you fill out the right paperwork: There are a lot of forms and documents that you need to fill out when you're trying to stay in the U.S. legally. A lawyer can help you make sure that you're filling out the right forms and that you're doing everything correctly.
  • Represent you in court: A lawyer will be your advocate and help you make your case at court hearings. 
  • Advocate for you and your rights: A lawyer will make sure that your voice is heard and that your rights are protected.

3) How can I find a good lawyer?

To find a good lawyer, it is important to work with someone who has experience in immigration law (and/or is a member of AILA). You can check if a lawyer is licensed to practice in your state by following these steps:

  1. Click on this link: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_services/flh-home/flh-bar-directories-and-lawyer-finders/
  2. Find and click on the state where you live and click the link to your state’s Bar Association
  3. Enter the attorney's name or bar number to see their profile
  4. The profile will have basic contact information, whether the attorney can practice law, and if they have had any ethical issues.

Here are some more tips to help you choose a good attorney:

✔️ Review and ask any questions before signing a contract (the contract should be provided in your preferred language and explained to you – you have the right to ask for clear explanations)

✔️ Don’t sign anything you don’t understand

✔️ Understand what forms of relief you are applying for and the fees that will be charged (this should be clearly explained in the contract and include a payment plan, if needed)

✔️ Ask to see your attorney’s licensing documents to make sure they are legitimate

✔️ Ask for references from other clients they have worked with

✔️ Ask for copies of forms and documents submitted in your case

4) What are my rights when I’m looking for a lawyer to work with?

When you are looking for a lawyer or an accredited representative to help you, it is important to know your rights. It does not matter if you are paying the lawyer or if they are helping you for free (free services are also known as "pro bono"), they have the same responsibilities. Remember that you have the right to:

  • Fire your attorney or accredited representative. If you are not satisfied with the lawyer’s work, you do not have to stay with that lawyer.  
  • Seek a second opinion on your case. You do not have to commit to the first lawyer you meet with – we recommend that you talk to multiple lawyers before deciding which to go with! 
  • File a complaint if your lawyer or accredited representative has violated any rules. You can begin to file a complaint here: https://stopnotariofraud.org/victims-needing-help/ 

 

PLEASE NOTE: This page provides general information and should not be considered legal advice. Please be sure to speak to an attorney about your specific case.

 

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SOURCES:

Stop Notario Fraud. (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://stopnotariofraud.org/faq/ 

YouTube. (2015.). Title of video [Pare el Fraude Notarial]. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggauJPa32ess 

California State Bar. (n.d.). En español. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/En-espa%C3%B1ol 

Catholic Legal Immigration Network. (n.d.). Protecting Your Community from Unauthorized Practice of Immigration Law. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://cliniclegal.org/resources/protecting-your-community/unauthorized-practice-immigration-law 

Apoyo de Asilo. (n.d.). Busque Ayuda. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://www.apoyodeasilo.org/busque-ayuda/ 

Asylum Advocacy. (n.d.). Find Help. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://help.asylumadvocacy.org/find-help/#lawyer 

Informed Immigrant. (n.d.). How to Find an Immigration Lawyer. Retrieved April 5, 2024, from https://www.informedimmigrant.com/resources/legal-help/how-to-find-an-immigration-lawyer/?utm_source=various&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=lawyers&utm_term