Never before has obtaining information been so easy. We have become used to quick and easy answers. Need a recipe for spaghetti sauce, or to unplug your kitchen drain? Just google it. Similarly, a person looking for quick and easy answers for immigration answers can find websites providing stock answers for seemingly simple questions. Some of these websites are fueled by attorneys providing superficial, one-paragraph opinions (I know, I have done this myself). There is nothing wrong with this sort of hypothetical guidance. However, there is no way to know if the right question is being asked, and all attorney advice is disclaimed with warnings not to rely on what they say. No attorney intends to form an attorney-client relationship in this manner or to be responsible for what they write.
Outside of the internet, “notario” or “immigration services” providers hold themselves out as qualified professionals (except they aren’t) offering less expensive fees than attorneys (except when they aren’t). In the face of these other quick, easy and apparently lower cost services, why hire a lawyer?
Immigration law is not simple. It is full of contradictions and changes constantly. It is one of the most complex and heavily regulated areas of legal practice in the United States. Only attorneys or accredited representatives by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) are authorized to represent persons before government agencies or courts. The unauthorized practice of law is a crime. It is very important to understand that “notarios” are not recognized as legal service professionals in the United States as they are in Latin America. Notaries in the United States are only allowed to verify identities for legal purposes by checking personal identification. While unauthorized providers of legal providers often operate without getting into trouble, the client will suffer from their mistakes. At best, a legal problem could delay a case for months, or it may merely be denied. At worst, a loved one will be deported or become stuck outside the country for five, ten, twenty years, or even permanently.
It is also not wise for persons to try to handle their immigration cases on their own. There is truth to the saying that a person who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. People will often start out without any problems by completing a two page form, but then will quickly end up over their heads when the case reaches the next level. They might call the 1-800 number for USCIS and get bad advice because the persons who answer the phone are not attorneys. If the foreign citizen is already in immigration detention or is stuck overseas, there will not be time to fix a mistake. Ignorance is no excuse, and errors are very costly. For all these reasons, why not schedule a consultation with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss your case?