US Immigration: lawyer needed or not
June 4, 2007 8:01 AM   Subscribe

Immigration through spouse: should I get a lawyer or can we file on our own and still get the greencard within reasonable time? I am already in the US on H1B work visa. I have been living in the US for over 7 years now. My wife is a born citizen.
posted by spacefire to Law & Government (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think that having a lawyer makes things any quicker, easier and more expensive but not quicker. We hired an attorney but only because I was here on a student visa and we're paranoid about filling in forms incorrectly. You should visit, read the information there and decide about whether or not to go down the immigration route accordingly.
posted by ob at 8:25 AM on June 4, 2007

The DHS site should have time estimates on their web site. If all else fails, work with your congressional office. They can get things moving.

It can take a very long time, but I've heard that things have sped up recently. It took me over two years to get my citizenship. I didn't use a lawyer, but I don't think it would have made a difference.

Generally speaking if you can bear the wait, and find the right path through the phone system, people are pretty helpful.
posted by idb at 8:28 AM on June 4, 2007

A lawyer will cost you somewhere in range of an extra 2-5 thousand dollars over the process.

Unless you have a special circumstance - like an overstay or something, a lawyer really isn't necessary.

Read newsgroups and the visajourney site. We did ours without a lawyer (K-1 visa) and it was super easy.

The process takes the same amount of time regardless of having an attorney.
posted by clanger at 8:53 AM on June 4, 2007

and by 'the immigration route' i meant 'the attorney route'. Duh!
posted by ob at 9:02 AM on June 4, 2007

Don't. Lawyers cost money (obviously) BIG AMOUNTS of money .
Stop being lazy, you can do it yourself.
Research, research, research.
(You don't mention what nationality you are) have a look around for expat websites, they usually have sections and/or a dedicated forum for immigration. for example.
posted by Webbster at 9:09 AM on June 4, 2007

If you are both detail-oriented and careful, and can deal with at least one random problem getting thrown at you, you can do this yourselves. I assume that since you were admitted as an H1B that you don't have any legal skeletons in your closet.

If you decide to hire an attorney, hire only an immigration attorney. Do not expect that any random general-purpose attorney will know what they're doing.

Visajourney and are both **FABULOUS** resources. Use them.

The only reason a lawyer might be faster is that, at least theoretically, a lawyer should make fewer errors in the forms than a sloppy client would, and so get fewer RFEs slowing things down. Realistically, visajourney and the newsgroup are very good resources for filling out the forms correctly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 AM on June 4, 2007

Your company probably used an attorney to file your H-1B paperwork. Consult with that attorney and with your employer before filing for a marriage-based green card! You do NOT want to jeopardize your employment status.

At some companies, the company will pay an attorney to file marriage-based green card paperwork for you (since it saves them the time/money/hassle of visas and employment-based green card sponsorship). You should investigate this option.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2007

If you are both detail-oriented and careful, and can deal with at least one random problem getting thrown at you, you can do this yourselves.

Seconded. (My single random problem was mailing everything to the wrong place.) I've been through the process, and it's not fun, but it's not as hard as people make it out to be. The USCIS web site has all the information and forms that you need - honestly, it does. Read all the instructions carefully. Fill out the forms. Mail them. Wait.

A lawyer can certainly make filling out the forms easier, help prepare you for interviews, prevent SNAFUs like mailing forms to the wrong address, etc - but you won't get to jump the queue just because you have a lawyer. Waiting times vary according to which office is doing the work, and that's determined by where you live. For me, the process took about two years from downloading forms to having the actual green card in my hand. I don't know if this counts as "reasonable" or not.

If you're worried about your H1B running out, note that once you've filed for PR, you're okay to work fairly quickly - you'll get a temporary EAD in a matter of weeks. (Not only are you okay to stay, you can't leave without your application being perceived as abandoned. Hint: File an advance parole application along with everything else, in case you want to take a vacation.

It's not a walk in the park, but for a legitimate, marriage based adjustment of status, the process is really fairly straighforward. I sometimes think it's perceived to be such a minefield because so many people are trying to game the system.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 10:54 AM on June 4, 2007

Just FYI: I got my greencard within five months of applying for Adjustment of Status (as I said before we had an attorney). From what I'm lead to believe that's about as quick as it gets, some people are a luckier and get it a little quicker but that's about standard processing time, what with biometrics, FBI namecheck and the interview.
posted by ob at 12:22 PM on June 4, 2007

Did it myself -- there's a lot of paperwork, and there are some confusing and internally-contradictory lists of what needs to be done, but err on the side of providing too much rather than just enough, read the instructions carefully and follow them as exactly as you can, and you'll be fine.

When it came down to the interview, I'd forgotten to bring any proof of my employment -- turned out that the interviewer was a friendly person, had an internet connection on her desktop, and was able to have me log into my online banking and demonstrate many months of direct salary deposits.

I think it took about 2 months to get my EAD, and about another 2 months to get the green card itself.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 3:45 PM on June 4, 2007

Response by poster: thanks for the replies it happens we received an offer of consulting pro bono from a friend.

Also, the visajourney site seems to have a ton of useful info and is a great resource.
posted by spacefire at 6:25 PM on June 4, 2007

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