Do I need a Lawyer

Hiring an Attorney

Attorneys at our offices, assisted by support personnel such as paralegals, secretaries and translators are here to help you with any and all aspects of the U.S. family sponsored immigration process. Due to the Federalized nature of U.S. Immigration law, our attorneys are qualified and authorized to represent our clients anywhere in the world before any U.S. Federal agency including, but not limited to, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), formerly known as the INS, BCIS and, the U.S. Department of State immediately at the end of the sentence that now ends: formerly known as the INS and BCIS

Should I hire an attorney or, should I try to take care of my case on my own?

A. We do not believe in frightening people about the perils and pitfalls of the U.S. immigration system in order to market or promote our practice. It is true that the U.S. immigration system is often chaotic, confusing and frustrating, particularly for those unfamiliar with the system. However, many people can and do negotiate the system, on some types of cases, on their own IF they are willing to do their homework, put in the necessary time and effort and, are willing to put up with a pretty substantial amount of aggravation and uncertainty. In general, there are two types of people who may consider hiring an immigration attorney to assist them in a family sponsored case:

  1. Persons with legal issues or problems that take their case out of the self-help category of cases. If you are uncertain as to whether you fall into this category or not, paying for an initial consultation with a qualified immigration attorney to evaluate your case is probably money well spent. The rules which make some people ineligible for a visa to the U.S. can be extremely complicated and, you should not necessarily assume that no grounds of inadmissibility apply. If, after reviewing the facts of your situation, the attorney advises you that he sees no significant legal problems in your case, you may then make the decision as to whether you fall into the second group of persons or not.
  2. Persons with otherwise "clean" cases who wish to entrust the matter to an attorney to handle as a matter of convenience and peace of mind. Each individual must make the decision whether the cost of counsel in these circumstances is worth the saved time, aggravation and effort of handling their case themselves. For most of these persons, retaining counsel is an issue of convenience and peace of mind, not absolute legal necessity. For some persons the cost is worth the convenience, guidance and peace of mind and, for some it is not.

Either legal necessity or convenience are legitimate reasons for retaining counsel to represent you in an immigration or visa matter.

Q. Does it matter where the immigration attorney's office is located?

A. The perfect "lawyer's answer". Yes and No and Maybe. The answer is an emphatic Yes, in some types of cases such as Removal (deportation) proceedings, where there are distinct advantages to having immigration counsel close to the place where the person is incarcerated or, who regularly appear in the Immigration Court where the alien will be required to appear. This can offer advantages both in counsel's familiarity with the local Immigration Court and Judges and, cost savings on travel time for counsel.

In many types of cases, the answer is pretty clearly No, at least for original petition filings with USCIS which establish the eligibility for the benefit sought and allow the alien beneficiary to apply for their visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. For most types of cases, the initial petition or application is filed at one of several USCIS Service Centers in the U.S., by mail or Fed Ex. No personal appearance by the petitioner, beneficiary or attorney at the Service Center is usually required. In practice, it makes little difference if the original petition is filed from across the street or across the planet. They all go to the same mailrooms and, USCIS responses are received either by mail or email.

Finally, the answer may well be Yes, in cases in which the alien Beneficiary must process through a U.S. Embassy abroad in order to actually obtain the visa. It is very difficult, although not impossible, for U.S. based counsel to guide and prepare the alien beneficiary for Embassy processing from the other side of the planet. One of the principal reasons that our firm opened full staffed offices in South East Asia, after years of traveling to the region representing clients, was that, in those family based cases where problems arise, they almost invariably arise at the Embassy or Consulate level. In addition, the alien Beneficiary, to a much greater degree than the Petitioning U.S. sponsor, often feels the need for "hands on" guidance and assistance in dealing with the U.S. government. Our experience has lead us to the firm conclusion that it makes no practical difference where the original USICS petition is mailed or couriered from but, it can make all the difference in the world having competent, concerned counsel on hand for the alien beneficiary where they really need it, during the consular processing stage of the case.

Q. Who is authorized by the U.S. Government to represent persons in U.S. immigration and visa matters?

A. The law is quite clear and is set forth in the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 292.1 For most clients, as a practical matter, authorized representation is limited to attorneys licensed and in good standing in at least one U.S. jurisdiction or, USCIS accredited representatives of voluntary aid agencies. Specifically NOT authorized are unlicensed "visa services", "visa consultants, "marriage brokers" and travel agents. Civil and criminal penalties for violations of these provisions can be quite severe. If there is any doubt in your mind that the person with whom you are dealing is an authorized representative under 8 CFR 292.1, ask for verification or proof of his or her qualifications (i.e., U.S. State bar admission number, license, bar card, AILA member number, etc).

Q. What should I look for in selecting an immigration attorney?

A. Obviously, the attorney should be licensed and in good standing in at least one U.S. jurisdiction, as required by 8 CFR 292.1. Beyond that, you may wish to ask the following questions:

  1. Is U.S. immigration law his/her main area of practice or just one of many?

    While most immigration attorneys handle other limited types of cases that are collateral to, or related to, their principal area of immigration practice, their main area of practice should be U.S. immigration law. For example, our firm does provide such additional legal services as pre-nuptial agreements, assistance with property transfers in Thailand and, simple wills that are related to our clients overall family based immigration strategy. Please note that these are collateral legal areas which were incorporated into our practice primarily to provide needed related services to our immigration clients. Our primary area of practice is, and always will be, U.S. Immigration Law.

  2. Is the attorney a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)?

    While membership in professional organizations such as AILA is no guarantee of competence, most competent attorneys who practice principally in the area of immigration law are AILA members. Membership in AILA represents a substantial financial commitment for members and, provides member attorneys with access to up to date agency information, continuing legal education and case research resources. Astonishingly, some lawyers (and non-lawyers) falsely advertise that they are members of AILA when they are not. You may verify an attorney's AILA membership at www.aila.org

  3. What are the attorney's fees and other costs involved in handling my type of case?

    The cost of retaining counsel is one of the critical factors in deciding not only whether to hire an attorney to assist but, which firm to hire. You are entitled to a candid discussion of the fees and costs to be expected in a case of your type. We are always happy to discuss fees and costs with clients. In general, most of the cases that we handle are on a "flat fee" or "fixed fee" basis. In other words, we handle your case from the time we are retained until a specific point in time or, until a specific objective has been obtained for a predetermined fee. Information on fees and costs in K-1 fiancé cases are set forth in our K-1 fiancée fees and costs sheet. We also welcome fee inquiries on any of the other legal services that we provide. For normal flat fees in routine cases Please see our Fees and Costs page.

    On occasion, we do handle cases on an hourly basis when the actual facts of the case are uncertain, the state of the law is in flux on particular legal issues or, the amount of time which the lawyer will have to devote to the case is difficult or impossible to predict. However, we believe that most clients prefer the certainty of a fixed fee for a particular service. Hourly fee arrangements are therefore relatively rare in our practice and, generally reserved for those cases where there are very serious legal problems or very complex legal issues.

Q. What should I avoid in seeking assistance with my immigration or visa case?

A. Avoid travel agencies, unlicensed "visa services" or "visa consultants" who represent that they are either qualified or authorized to assist you in your U.S. immigration case. They are not. As set forth above, such persons are not authorized by the U.S. Government to represent persons in immigration or visa matters and, in many cases, their doing so constitutes a serious criminal violation. In addition, many of these operators cut corners inappropriately and, worse, often encourage customers to lie to the U.S. Government about material facts in their case.

In Thailand, particularly, there is no shortage of such "fly by night" visa operations. Unfortunately, there are also a number of persons who have lost their license to practice law in the U.S. or, were never able to successfully pass a bar examination, who have set up shop in Thailand and other countries around the world. Worse, there are also persons who never even attended an accredited law school, much less graduated from one, who advertise themselves as immigration attorneys or "U.S. Immigration Law offices" and hold themselves out as qualified to represent persons in U.S. immigration and visa matters. Such operators often advertise their services in well known publications or on well known websites, make unverifiable claims of success or, misrepresent their qualifications. These sorts of operators are very good at preying on people's fear and uncertainty and, at telling them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. Avoid these shady operators like the plague. In our opinion, it is far better to handle your case on your own, even making a few mistakes, than to contaminate your case with the participation of such illegal, unethical operators.

Our best suggestion on how to prevent falling prey to such fly by night operators is to ask for proof of any attorney's licensure and good standing with a U.S. bar jurisdiction and, proof of their membership in professional legal organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Most importantly, ask them whether they will be filing a "G-28 Entry of Appearance" as your attorney in the case. The filing of this document with your petition registers the attorney with the U.S. Government as your attorney in the case and, makes them professionally responsible for the manner in which it is conducted. We are happy to provide clients with proof of our licensure in good standing, AILA membership, to discuss our legal education and practice experience and, we file a G-28 Entry of Appearance in all cases in which we are acting as legal counsel, as required by law.

There are a number of "Red Flags" which seem to be common to many "fly by night" visa companies, phony law firms and visa consultants. Some of the following are common "Red Flags" which, while they may be perfectly innocent (or not), probably warrant additional scrutiny to be sure that you are dealing with a legitimate, authorized representative.

◊    Claims of 100% success on visa applications. In our opinion, anyone who claims 100% success on every visa application is either not telling the truth or, never takes on difficult cases or, is playing word games with the meaning of "success". Just to be clear, our firm, in addition to the many routine, straightforward visa cases we handle every year also represents clients in complex, difficult or legally challenging cases. We are not afraid to take on legally challenging cases as long as the client is fully informed of the problems they may face and their chances for success. Lawyers who take not only the easy cases but are also willing to fight for people with serious problems don't always win in hard fought or legally complex cases.

◊   Making what are essentially unverifiable claims. Claims to being "the best", "the most successful", "the most experienced", "the highest volume" are nonsense claims designed to emphasize image over substance. Such advertising ploys may be ok when it comes to selling goods because no one takes such unverifiable claims seriously when it comes to soap powder or cinnamon rolls. Such unverifiable claims applied to professional services are, in our opinion, unprofessional, misleading and designed to distract from a lack of substantive knowledge or proper qualifications.

◊   Multi-Tiered Marketing Packages. While it is true that some legitimate law firms have adopted such pricing schemes for advertising and marketing purposes, they are often used as a "bait and switch" ploy by unethical or unqualified companies. While most legitimate law firms, including ours, have set routine fees for certain types of routine cases, we believe that fees should be individualized so that each client is paying for exactly what the facts of their case requires, no more, no less. Even in the case of legitimate law firms, we believe that such pricing strategies may hold the risk of putting marketing strategies ahead of good representation. In our opinion, an ethical attorney should individually evaluate the facts of a case, advise the client of their options and the relative costs and benefits/risks of each alternative (and legally appropriate) course of action. The decision is then up to the client to weight the relative advantages and disadvantages of each option versus the cost involved and make the choice as to what is the best course of action for them. This contrasts with multi-tiered marketing schemes where even an ethical practitioner is confronted with the ethical dilemma that arises when a client who wants to buy a "Silver Package" actually needs more complex services or, the person who wants to buy a "Platinum Package" actually needs substantially less service. It is our belief that such marketing strategies run the danger of putting money issues before client needs in the mind of the service provider. We believe that determining true client needs, whether large or small, should always be the first and foremost duty of the attorney. A fair and reasonable fee should then be decided upon once the client's needs have been determined.

“Money Back Guarantees”. Legitimate professionals simply don't operate this way and, after you read the fine print, you will realize that neither do the "fly by night" operators. Look for such fine print disclaimers as "if you are refused because of a mistake that we make" or, "success" being defined only as USCIS approval rather than actual visa issuance by an Embassy or, such claims coupled with someone encouraging you to lie about facts on your application.

If any of the foregoing apply, you would be wise to exercise additional caution in investigating the qualifications of the representative. Don't be afraid to ask for verification of qualifications to practice law before USCIS, the Department of State and other Federal Agencies or, verification of membership in recognized professional organizations such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). No legitimate practitioner would be offended by such an inquiry into qualifications.

Q. I filed my case with USCIS myself (or had an attorney in the U.S. file it for me). My fiancée/spouse's case is now ready to go to the Embassy for visa processing (consular processing) and I am worried about my fiancée/spouse dealing with the Embassy, handling the paperwork on her own or, not being prepared for her interview. Do you handle cases at this stage?

A. Yes. A substantial part of our immigration practice is handling the consular processing stage of a case for persons who filed the underlying USCIS petition themselves or, handling consular processing by referral from U.S. based attorneys on cases filed by their offices.

We welcome questions from prospective clients.

The practice of U.S. immigration law is our dedicated life's work and, in addition to our families, the most important thing in the world to our attorneys and staff.

If you have additional U.S. immigration or visa questions, please ask our experienced American Immigration Attorneys by CLICKING HERE

Choosing a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertising. We welcome specific inquiries regarding our services, experience and qualifications. Inquiries may be directed to our experienced American Immigration Attorneys by CLICKING HERE

We welcome questions from prospective clients.

The practice of U.S. immigration law is our dedicated life's work and, in addition to our families, the most important thing in the world to our attorneys and staff.

If you have additional U.S. immigration or visa questions, please ask our experienced American Immigration Attorneys by CLICKING HERE


Choosing a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertising. We welcome specific inquiries regarding our services, experience and qualifications. Inquiries may be directed to our experienced American Immigration Attorneys by CLICKING HERE

USFAMILYVISA.COM, K1LAW.COM and K1LAWYER.COM are public information resources of White & Weber Ltd., Attorneys at Law.
We are committed to making the confusing U.S. immigration and visa system more understandable to, and more humane for, our clients and the general public.
We are dedicated to protecting our client's rights and to advancing the cause of family reunification for our clients. Bringing families together in the United States is our professional cause. Together we can build a better, stronger America by building stronger, more diverse families in the United States.