Lawyer in which country?
January 15, 2012 8:43 AM   Subscribe

For an Australian citizen thinking of moving to the United States, is it better to see an immigration lawyer in Australia, or one in the US, for consultation? This assumes that one is currently in Australia, but travels occasionally to the US.

The ideal goal would be permanent residency, though another long-term visa that allows residency and the ability to work, would also be acceptable.

More generally, is it better to find lawyers in the country of origin or destination, for immigration type issues?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am a lawyer, I am not your lawyer, I used to do a bunch of immigration law, I don't any longer.

You need to see an immigration lawyer who is familiar with the laws in the place you are moving to. That country is going to be the one controlling if you are allowed to go in or not. Not your home country. Thus, in this situation, you should probably see an immigration lawyer in the United States.

Depending on criminal charges pressed against you in your home country you may need an attorney there as well, to help you clear up your record. If you have criminal offenses against you in the United States you'll almost definitely need those cleaned up first. In fact, if you have criminal offenses against you in the United States you should get those taken care of first. Many, many offenses will make getting your permanent residency very difficult if not impossible.

You should also get an immigration lawyer located in the geographic area of the united states you're planning on moving to. A lawyer in California is less likely to be familiar with the quirks of the immigration processing centers in New Jersey than one in New York. Also immigration law changes fairly fast, so you should get someone who does lots of VISA work.

If you know the area of the United States you're planning on moving to feel free to mefi and I'll let you know if I know an attorneys practicing in that area.
posted by bswinburn at 8:58 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You need a US-qualified immigration lawyer who specializes in Australian clients. Probably just as easy to find in Sydney as anywhere in New York -- noting that an Australian-based lawyer will have to work with a US-based lawyer for some of the paperwork and any appearances or submissions to US-based officials. (Important elements of the paperwork and submissions and appearances may be to consular authorities in Australia, where your Australian-based lawyer can be useful.)
posted by MattD at 9:00 AM on January 15, 2012

You want someone who specializes in Australian clients, by the way, because every major source of US immigration has special pluses and minuses -- visas available to you (plus), particular consular concerns (minuses) etc. "Generic" US immigration lawyers tend to have most experience in high-volume areas not relevant to you -- H1Bs and L1s from India, illegal immigrants facing deportation to various places in Latin America, refugee cases, finance/spousal cases, etc.
posted by MattD at 9:04 AM on January 15, 2012

What MattD said. There's a distinct visa class available to Australians (and a reciprocal one for Americans wanting to work in Australia) on account of the free trade treaty between the two countries, and you want someone who has familiarity with that, as well as the usual classes, and able to guide you towards the most appropriate one.

Large firms with a foot on either side of the Pacific, whose immigration work is focused on skilled work visas, will fit the bill -- and hit the wallet. Those firms are the ones that know the controlling legislation and working regulations at least as well as the people paid to enforce them, and will be able to spell out conditions and criteria that are often only hinted at in the official paperwork.
posted by holgate at 10:03 AM on January 15, 2012

I'd look for a lawyer locally and let them deal with finding a professional in the US should one prove necessary. An Australian immigration attorney who does this sort of thing on any kind of regular basis is either going to know everything they need to know or is going to have contacts in the US.
posted by valkyryn at 10:10 AM on January 15, 2012

See a US immigration lawyer.
A well-connected US lawyer will have contacts who can check what happened when your visa application (inevitably) stalls or gets lost in the processing backlog and you have no way of asking them where it is in the process. There is intentionally no direct query line for applicants - just an automated phone system that tells you if your application has achieved one of three status points: received, in-processing, decision-made. If your application file has been lost down the back of someone's desk - which is what happened to someone I know - it will stay in-processing for ever, unless you have someone with a contact in the processing office.
A US lawyer will understand what the US screening agents will look for, in evaluating risk - this changes frequently - to advise you what additional paperwork to file.
Finally, a US lawyer understands the risks and signals of current immigration policy (which is highly dynamic and political) and can advise you on your chances realistically.

As others have said, find a US immigration lawyer who has worked for Australian applicants previously. They will be able to assess your case and understand the sort of supporting documentation that you can produce.
posted by Susurration at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2012

Yes you want a US based immigration attorney. Memail me and I will send you contact info for one I used in the Puget Sound area.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2012

You might want to look into Levin Immigration Law, a Sydney-based US immigration law firm. They have specialized expertise of working with Australian immigrants to the US, E-3s, etc.
posted by madforplaid at 1:50 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

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