January 26, 2009: Should Immigration Forms be Prepared With or Without a Lawyer
Should Immigration Forms be Prepared With or Without a Lawyer?
Can I file Form I-130 and all other forms without a lawyer or agent? If so, how do I do it?
Individuals file forms with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services on their own all of the time by following the instructions that accompany the forms. However, there are many problems that commonly occur when forms are filed without the assistance of a lawyer. The most common problem is when a person files a form seeking certain benefits that s/he is not eligible for, which results in the person losing his or her filing fee, the petition/application getting denied, and the person being placed in deportation proceedings.
Other common problems include not providing all of the necessary supporting documentation for a certain application and/or petition, not filing the application/petition at the correct USCIS Service Center, not providing the correct filing fee, and not answering the questions on the forms appropriately. Improperly filed forms will cause lengthy delays. For example, an adjustment of status based on marriage to a United States citizen, if filed properly, should have a scheduled interview approximately six months from the date of filing. Such a case, if improperly filed, can take years, not to mention the additional stress of waiting. USCIS makes the filing of forms appear to be easy and straightforward by providing instructions on how to do it and providing general guidance on who is eligible and not eligible to file the forms.
It is extremely important to note that the instructions are not the law. Just because it appears from the instructions that a person is eligible to file the form does not mean that the person is eligible under the law. Every case is different because every case has different facts. One fact may be the difference between being eligible or not for an immigration benefit. Additionally, individuals should not rely on their own reading of the instructions to determine whether they are qualified for the benefit they are seeking because the language can be very confusing and misleading. Instead, before filing anything with USCIS, all persons should consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss their case and review their options.
Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys