The wrong immigration help can hurt

RECENTLY, I had a third year international college student do a consultation with me.  She had married her US citizen boyfriend.  She hired an “immigration consultant” referred to her by her aunt in Chinatown.  This consultant helped her complete an I-130 petition, but failed to file a green card application.  Additionally, he had filed an employment authorization based on pending asylum, although she never applied for asylum.  As a result, her employment authorization was denied and her petition was filed without a green card application.  When she came to consult with me, she was surprised to learn all the deficiencies and mistakes that her “immigration consultant” had made which prejudiced and delayed her case.  She was eager to retain us and we were able to sort everything out for her.
Prospective clients should be wary of “notarios” or “immigration consultants.”  Quite often, cheap assistance can end up costing you more.  It is always cheaper to do something right from the start than to fix a problem.   The law is very clear that it is illegal for “public notaries,” non-attorneys, or attorneys not properly licensed in the United States to provide legal advice.  These individuals are forbidden from not only giving legal advice, but also filling out forms.  The same prohibition also applies to foreign lawyers who are not recognized as attorneys in the United States unless they become licensed and authorized to practice law in one of the 50 US jurisdictions.
When seeking immigration assistance, always check the attorney’s license with the State Bar.  Additionally, in today’s society, information on real attorneys is posted online either through a firm website, social media (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter), Yelp, or attorney profiles such as Avvo.  The information available online should assist you in distinguishing a real immigration specialist from a fraud.   If you cannot find something regarding the immigration consultant, it probably means that they have something to hide and should be the first red flag.
Immigration consultants and notarios are in business to make money.  Yes, they often charge less than immigration attorneys, but they rarely have their non-immigrant clients’ interests at heart.  Notarios often prey on the naïve non-immigrants and frequently make promises and assurances, which rarely can be kept.  They lure the immigrant folk by charging lower fees and promising fast results.  Once the non-citizens sign up, they learn quickly that more fees and charges await them, as consultants will often charge additional fees for very simple tasks.
Please keep in mind that immigration consultants are not attorneys.  As such, their grasp of nuanced immigration laws is dubious and often inadequate.  Immigration consultants are not interested in explaining to their clients how the promised benefits will be obtained and informing of the consequences that follow filing of certain applications with the government.  As a result, countless numbers of non-citizens have suffered harm and damages from the actions of unscrupulous consultants, as their dreams of remaining in the United States were shattered.  Sadly, many of those non-citizens never saw the problems coming and were caught unawares when they faced denials or were ordered sent back to their native countries.  In the end, those with some possibilities of remaining in the United States ended up spending thousands of dollars trying to save their immigration cases, significantly beyond the amount they would have paid if they hired an immigration attorney in the first place.
Please do not make a mistake of relying on a bad advice from a notario in hope to save money.  Some consequences of following a bad immigration advice can haunt individuals for years and can severely damage one’s chances of ever legalizing status in the United States.   The money will be far better spent on paying for an experienced and reliable immigration attorney.
At Wilner and O’Reilly, we have a dedicated group of experienced attorneys, who will gladly review your case and advise you accordingly.  Our offices are located in Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and Utah.   Please call if you have any questions regarding your or somebody’s immigration problems.   We will be more than happy to help.

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Kelly S. O’Reilly is a nationally known immigration expert and former immigration officer. He is a highly sought after speaker on immigration and employment compliance issues. Mr. O’Reilly serves as the current chair of the Riverside County Bar Association Immigration section and is a partner in the full-service immigration firm of the Wilner & O’Reilly where he provides free consultations. Mr. O’Reilly can be contacted at (714) 919-8880 and he welcomes email inquiries at [email protected].

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