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Like every other lawyer, immigration attorneys do not have a set, one-size-fits-all fee. However, immigration attorneys do typically make adjustments to their fees, as they recognize many clients seeking their services have restricted means of employment and therefore income. For this reason, many immigration attorneys charge a flat fee rather than an hourly rate.
Why Hire an Immigration Attorney
The application process for work visas, citizenship, or legal resident status is highly detailed and constantly changing. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) resides under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security. Though USCIS and DHS, as well as the US Department of State, provide public information such as online resources, relying on these sources for legal advice presents difficulties
First, neither the departments nor their employees have the burden of responsibility for the information they provide. Meaning, if you receive faulty information, there is no fault or blame assigned, assuming you even realize you received inaccurate information. With a lack of training on developments in immigration law and too few resources, receiving misinformation is entirely possible. Second, the goal of these agencies is immigration enforcement. In other words, the default mindset is keeping people out of the country, not making it easier to allow people into the country.
An immigration lawyer explains your available options and helps complete the necessary forms. He or she may also represent you in dealings with the agency. In addition, an immigration attorney is familiar not only with the current rules and regulations but also with any upcoming changes.
Legal fees and costs vary greatly in immigration matters, depending on your needs and what services you hire an attorney to perform. Rates also vary according to experience and the size of the firm representing you. Common immigration services and average fees include:
Service Fee Range
- Application for Employment Authorization (Work Permit): $250-500
- Application for Citizenship or Naturalization: $500-1,200
- Green Card Petition, Family-Based: $800-1,500
- Green Card Petition, Employment-Based: $1,500-5,000
- Application for Asylum: $1,000-3,000
- Application Status Adjustment: $600-1,200
- Deportation Defense: $2,000-10,000
Attorney hourly fees range between $100 and $300 per hour on average, though many immigration attorneys charge a flat rate. For example, the average full visa packet runs around $2,500, though more complex cases ratchet that total up to $10,000 and more. Some attorneys offer consultation services at their hourly rate. You, then, would complete the paperwork and file it yourself based on the attorney's advice and forms from USCIS.
Typically, attorneys charge a retainer, which is an up-front payment for services. This will be either a percentage of the flat fee or the equivalent of several hours of the attorney's time. Following the retainer, you make monthly payments until you've paid the full amount.
What if You Can't Afford an Attorney?
If you do not have the funds to pay an attorney, you have a couple of options. Some lawyers agree to split the work with you, where the attorney handles tasks on an hourly basis, such as consultation, attending interviews, or reviewing documents. Your part is performing tasks such as filing and completing paperwork. Some attorneys, however, refuse this type of arrangement if you filed documents with USCIS before consulting with the attorney.
You may also apply to a nonprofit organization that assists people with immigration matters. Some of these provide free services, but most charge reduced rates. Obtaining help this way is difficult, however, as these organizations receive no grant funding. This means that these organizations typically have enormous backlogs of cases due to inadequate funding and lack of resources.
To protect yourself, learn everything you can regarding immigration law in America. It helps you not only understand your case, but also helps ensure that, if you do hire an attorney, you choose one with the experience and knowledge your case requires. This likely is not the attorney or firm advertising the lowest rates. For the best results, look for an attorney experienced in immigration law and possibly one who belongs to a professional immigration lawyer organization.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you need assistance, schedule a free consultation with an experienced immigration attorney. Your time during this consultation is limited, so come prepared with any pertinent documents. He or she will advise you on your case and answer your questions. Do your homework first, so you can gauge the attorney's experience and knowledge of immigration laws.