Despite high legal fees, there are still some free options to get free immigration advice in the U.S. This is a representational image. Unsplash

NEW YORK CITY - It is no secret that immigration has its ups and downs. Adapting to a new culture, missing home and building a new life are not simple tasks. Adding to this, there are the endless legal documents that migrants have to fill out and process before they can actually call a new country home.

Knowing what documents to fill out and what the best route for your specific case may be can be daunting, which is why it is always recommended to go to an expert for legal advice. However, what if you can't afford the steep legal fees?

Though immigration lawyers and advisors tend to have high fees for their services, this is not a reason to discard the chance to have some advice and guidance on your case, as some free options may be available for you.

Here is a comprehensive list on how to get free immigration advice.

Why is it Important to Get Immigration Advice?

Unlike other countries, the U.S. does not require immigrants to have legal aid at the time of applying for a new status. However, given the complexity and intricacy of the system, this is often heavily recommended.

An immigration lawyer can work to get you immigration benefits such as a green card, asylum or citizenship. They can also help you:

  • Explore your options and next steps.
  • Understand the questions on your application and forms.
  • Avoid mistakes on your application that could get your case denied.
  • File your application and supporting documents.
  • Prepare you for any interviews.
  • Appeal a decision.
  • Find an interpreter.
  • Get updates and decisions on your case.

Who Can Provide Free Immigration Advice?

The following professionals can give legal advice and services in immigration and citizenship cases:

An immigration lawyer or attorney is licensed by a state bar association to offer legal aid.

A DOJ-accredited representative is an individual or nonprofit organization trained to provide immigration services and is accredited by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

You can find immigration lawyers and DOJ-accredited representatives who offer free or low-cost help through nonprofit organizations and immigration legal clinics.

Here is a list of Pro Bono Legal Service Providers.

Immigration Lawyers

A licensed immigration lawyer is a person who has a state license to practice law. To find out if a lawyer has a license and is allowed to represent you before U.S. immigration officials:

  • Ask the lawyer, "in what state are you licensed to practice law?" You can also ask to see the license and write down the license number
  • Contact the "state bar association" or the state court system to find out how to check if the license is valid and if the lawyer is in "good standing." For a list of state bar associations, visit the ABA's website.
  • The Department of Justice also offers a list of disciplined lawyers. These are lawyers who cannot represent you before the U.S. Immigration officials.

Legal Aid

Unlike the list of disbarred or suspended lawyers mentioned above, accredited representatives with the Department of Justice can help get you free immigration advice. For a list of accredited representatives in your area, visit the US Department of Justice's site.

Non-Profit Organizations

Many nonprofit agencies across the U.S. provide free or low-cost immigration help. Here is a list of some of these resources that may be in your area:

If you do not qualify for low-cost or free immigration advice, contact the American Immigration Lawyers Association for a referral to a licensed immigration lawyer.

Immigration Law Clinic

A legal clinic is a law school program that allows students to get practical experience providing legal aid, often to underrepresented individuals or organizations. These legal services are provided at reduced or no cost. If you are looking for free immigration advice, this may be a good option for you.

To find out more about clinics near you, you can ask your local bar association, university or resettlement agency.

How to Prepare for Your Free Immigration Advice Session

Whether you are just looking for general legal aid on your immigration case, or are ready to start a new status application, it is always important to go prepared for your free immigration advice session.

When meeting with an immigration attorney— whether that is online or in person— you should be prepared to communicate your case, worries and needs. The initial immigration consultation is the best time to voice any concerns or questions regarding their expertise or the case itself.

Here are a few things to consider before you get legal aid.

Gather Documentation

You should be prepared to bring any documents or paperwork pertinent to your case. This will allow the attorney to quickly review it for dates or other important facts. Here are a few documents to think about as you prepare your file for your immigration consultation.

  • Important documents relating to your immigration case, such employee sponsorship forms, visas, immigration benefit forms or denials, and more.
  • Copies of criminal records if applicable.
  • Copies of documents that have been filed by ICE or other government committees.
  • A copy of your green card, marriage license, social security card, birth certificate, employment card, passport, and anything else official and important.

Documents needed will vary depending on the case and the process you are applying to. It is always important to ask your attorney or representative what documents you will need prior to your appointment.

Write Down Your Questions

Although the attorney will likely give a detailed explanation of the process you will be embarking on, and get into the intricacies of your case, it is still highly important that you come prepared with a list of questions you may want to ask them. Doing so will not only show the attorney you are prepared and organized, but it will also make the meeting run smoothly.

When writing your questions, think about possible immigration problems you are concerned about, as well as the background of the person you will be working with. A list of questions you could potentially ask are:

  • What is your success rate?
  • How much experience do you have with this type of case?
  • How long will it be before a final decision is made in my case?
  • Do you think we'll run into any immigration problems as we go through this process?
  • Do you think we'll be successful?

Asking specific questions to your case should also be a priority. Always think about your needs and concerns before you go into the meeting, and consider if this is the best option for you.

Be Honest and Clear

As you move along in your case, you will learn a variety of technical and bureaucratic details that might be overwhelming. This is why it is always important to communicate your concerns and think about any immigration problems you might be thinking about.

Be honest to your immigration lawyer, not only on the facts of your case and your background, but also on goals and expectations. After all, a change in your immigration status will take time, patience, and most likely constant communication with your lawyer.

Bottom Line

It is no secret that immigration processes can be lengthy and complicated. That is why it is usually recommended to have an immigration lawyer that will help walk you through the procedure.

Although most lawyers have high legal fees, there are still a few options for immigrants that are unable to afford them. From nonprofit organizations, to law school legal clinics, it is important to research what options are available to you depending on your location, case and budget.

As you embark on this new journey, it is important to be honest and clear and always come prepared with any possible immigration problems for your consultation, that way you can help the process run smoothly, and you can be prepared for any outcome or obstacle that might be presented for you.

For more information on free and paid immigration consultation, click here.

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