The United States is the among the most popular immigration destinations for foreign nationals across the globe. Around one million people arrive each year as refugees, asylum-seekers, and permanent legal residents. Hundreds of thousands of people become US citizens every year.
The immigration process can be daunting and overwhelming. There are many steps you need to take and taking the wrong one could have a catastrophic effect. You might consider partnering with a Chicago immigration lawyer to ensure you have the best experience possible.
An experienced immigration law lawyer will ensure you start on the right foot. This guide will discuss the top seven things you need to look for when finding a lawyer in Chicago.
1. Ask for a Referral
A great jumping-off point is asking your friends or family if they’ve worked with an immigration lawyer. If you’re working with a lawyer on other matters, you could inquire if they have any recommendations. They can likely help you find a reputable one to help with your case.
A personal referral gives you additional insight into a lawyer that you couldn’t get from reading online reviews. They can give you an unbiased account of what their experience was like with that attorney.
2. Don’t Hire Someone With No Experience
You want to partner with a lawyer that’s well-versed in immigration law. A general lawyer is knowledgeable but they won’t have the expertise needed to help you navigate your case.
Immigration policies and procedures are constantly changing. A general practice lawyer, or one who does not focus on immigration matteres, might not be aware of the latest updates in the field. Your case might suffer because of that.
An immigration lawyer has specific experience dealing with these types of cases. You’ll want to work with a lawyer that has worked on many cases. Find out what their experience is dealing with:
- Removal (deportation) defense
- Naturalization (applying for U.S. citizenship)
- Business immigration
- Family immigration
- Green cards
- Temporary work visas (e.g. H-1B, O-1, etc)
3. Evaluate Their Prices
You’ll want to find out how much the immigration lawyer charges before you sign any contracts. Their fees should fit within your budget.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t go with an attorney just because they offer you a low price. You want a high-quality attorney that’ll take your case seriously. The cheaper alternative might not be the right choice to make.
Some lawyers will charge a flat or hourly fee. Ask them about what other costs you might have to pay, such as document filing fees.
4. Compare Multiple Lawyers
Just like with anything you invest in, you’ll want to shop around to find the best option. Compile a list of three to five attorneys. Schedule consultations with them where you can meet in person, or at least via Zoom.
Speaking with multiple attorneys helps you compare one to the other. You can get a good idea of their philosophy and character. That’ll help you decide who’s the right choice for you.
The most important thing to consider is if you trust your lawyer. You shouldn’t have any problem telling them personal information. If you get a bad feeling or don’t want to share details, you should continue your search.
5. Check Their Qualifications
Do a quick online search for all of the lawyers on your list. You should be able to easily find out if they’re licensed and registered with a state regulatory agency. You can also look up if they’re a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
AILA is the leading organization for immigration lawyers in the US. However, an immigration attorney doesn’t need to be a member of the group. AILA’s continuing legal education programs are among the most respected in the field, and the organization makes it as easy as possible for its members to stay up to date when it comes to best practices and changes in the law.
Being a member of the AILA shows you that an immigration lawyer is dedicated to their craft.
You can also look at third-party review sites to see what previous and current clients have said about working with them. Avoid setting up a consultation if you come across any information that states they have previously been arrested or disbarred.
6. Ask Them Questions
We’ve talked about how you should set up consultations with every lawyer on your list. Come prepared for each meeting. You’ll want to bring relevant documents that might help them get a better idea of your case.
You should also have a list of questions that you ask each lawyer. The answers to these questions will give you a better idea if they’ll be a good partner moving forward.
Some of the questions you can ask include:
- Are you a member of the State Bar Association?
- What are my chances for success?
- What do you think about my case?
- What would your strategy be for my case?
- Who will be my main point of contact?
- What steps will I need to take during the process?
- How can I best get in touch with you?
- What languages do and your staff members you speak?
- What does the payment process look like?
While it’s important to get an idea of what they think the outcome of your case will be, be wary of unrealistic promises. You should be cautious if an immigration lawyer tells you that your case will be simple, when it is obvious to you that it is not. Lawyers who point an overly rosy picture for a clearly complicate cases might be inexperienced and naive.
7. Ask for References
Reading reviews on third-party sites and the lawyer’s website will only tell you so much information. Ask the lawyer if they can provide you with previous or current client references, although its quite common and reasonable for the lawyer to be hesitant to do so given attorney-client confidentiality.
When available, these references will likely speak highly of the attorney. Like with a friend or family referral, they can give you a better understanding of how the lawyer interacts with their clients.
Find an Experienced Chicago Immigration Lawyer
Finding a lawyer can be an overwhelming experience. However, it’s not a decision that you casually want to make. Take the time to do your research before partnering with a Chicago immigration lawyer.
Richard Hanus and The Law Offices of Richard Hanus are here to make your immigration process smooth and stress-free. We have over 30 years of experience in the field. Contact us to schedule a consultation at one of our Chicago area offices.