Many people applying for US immigration visas or green cards shy away from using an attorney. Not everyone who arrives in the US is wealthy, and attorneys can be expensive. Some individuals applying for a green card or immigration status try to act as their own attorneys. Although this is possible, it can be complex. Immigration lawyers fulfill a number of functions:
1) They help you decide on the best course of action, based on your specific circumstances, so that you enjoy the highest chance of approval.
2) They help you understand the latest US immigration policies and laws and how these laws affect you and your application. They also help you complete forms and documentation fully and correctly so that you do not face additional delays.
3) They negotiate with the US Department of Homeland Security, US Consulates, the US Department of Labor (DOL), Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), and the US Department of State (DOS), as needed.
If you wish to act as your own immigration attorney, you may need to do all these things and more in order to be successful. However, before you decide to be your own attorney, you should understand that there are circumstances in which you should not act as your own immigration attorney. If you have a special case, you should seek the help of a qualified attorney. For example, if your case is complex or if you have resided in the US without legal immigration status and are now applying for legal immigration status, your case is more complex and may require a good attorney. As well, if you have been denied a visa or a green card, you will likely need a US immigration attorney to help you. If you cannot afford a US immigration attorney, some churches, immigration centers, multicultural groups, schools, employers, and communication organizations may help you by providing you with free or low-cost legal help.
If you do decide to represent yourself as your own immigration attorney, be advised that some situations will be easier for you than others. For example, green card renewal or green card replacement is simple processes in most cases and you can act as your own attorney in these cases. Similarly, if you simply need to fill out form n400, form i90, or another immigration form, you can generally act as your own immigration attorney, provided you understand the requirements well.
Once you decide to become your own immigration attorney, you will need to research carefully. Whether you are applying for a visa or a green card replacement, read all you can about the requirements and the forms you will need to fill out. There are many books that can teach you how to do this at your local library. The Internet is also filled with good advice and samples of successfully filled-out forms.
When acting as your own immigration attorney, it is important to stay organized. Keep copies of all forms you submit as well as details about what you have submitted and when. Keep track of your application process and check the status of your application. If you have a question at any point, seek the help of an immigration expert rather than guessing. Even a small error on an immigration form could foil your chances for a visa or a green card.