Author Topic: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?  (Read 2003 times)

IrishMustacian

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Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« on: October 19, 2017, 06:22:34 PM »
Soon I will apply for a green card, in particular I will apply for EB-2, with a national interest waiver. This is not an easy process (I think almost all applicants have a PhD), and requires submitting evidence that your becoming a permanent resident is in the national interest. Applications can be rejected if not enough (or not convincing enough) evidence is provided.

The cost of the actual forms is around $2,000. The cost of a reasonable lawyer to help prepare the application seems to be around $5,000 extra. Mainly they help write the so-called "cover letter" (which is around 20 pages explaining why you fit the criteria and will benefit the US) and they write drafts of 5-6 letters of recommendation to be signed by the letter writers. They also check all the other supporting evidence (copies of citation records etc) is in order. I have access to some friends' previous successful applications which I can use as inspiration, and there is a website that charges $100 to give you a "package" to help you prepare a complete application on your own. From these, I have produced a first draft of an application myself without a lawyer.

Luckily, I did my PhD in a well-known US school, have a good publication and citation record and can get supporting letters from some impressive people. I think I have a pretty good chance of being accepted if I get the application right - my confidence was boosted when I sent my resume to a law firm who specialize in this kind of visa, and they offered me their "acceptance or full refund" deal for $5k. They claim that the success rate of submissions that they have offered this deal on has been 99.6 % over the past two years.

Getting rejected would not be the end of the world, as I should be able to get other kinds of visas in future (and my current status will last for another 2 years - for the duration of my postdoc). However, it would be very nice to have a green card. It would free me up a lot in terms of the kinds of positions I apply for, and gives a lot more security than my current temporary visa. If my application is rejected, it could reduce my chances of being accepted in future. Even though I have a first draft of my application, it will still need a lot of work before submission - I would guess I would save around 40 hours of time by paying the lawyer.

I have saved pretty diligently, so have a low six figure stache, but my monthly spending is around $1.5k, so I am torn between thinking that $5k is not a whole lot of money, and thinking it is insane that I would pay 3 months worth of expenses to avoid the effort of doing the research and polishing my application myself.

So, what should I do? Has anyone here been through this process?

drudgep

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2017, 06:29:36 PM »
If you can afford a lawyer, get one... one of my friends was denied and didn't know why... $1K gone...

doneby35

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2017, 06:36:21 PM »
I have been through the entire immigration process, although not the same type of visa you're going for, however it was pretty demanding as I had to submit all types of proof and documentation and letters.

I chose to not go with a lawyer and did it myself, because lawyers are expensive and because i did a lot of research on the entire process, i'm very detailed, organized and I triple check everything before submitting the necessary forms/applications. If you think you are detailed and careful enough to put the package and documentation together, then a lawyer is an unnecessary expense. If you think you would miss some steps on your own and you would be more comfortable with a lawyer, then a lawyer would be best.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2017, 07:17:43 PM »
In this day and age, with this hostile administration views on immigration? Get an expert who knows what they are doing. You wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself just because you can watch a YouTube video on it.

bridget

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2017, 07:26:55 PM »
I have been through the entire immigration process, although not the same type of visa you're going for, however it was pretty demanding as I had to submit all types of proof and documentation and letters.

I chose to not go with a lawyer and did it myself, because lawyers are expensive and because i did a lot of research on the entire process, i'm very detailed, organized and I triple check everything before submitting the necessary forms/applications. If you think you are detailed and careful enough to put the package and documentation together, then a lawyer is an unnecessary expense. If you think you would miss some steps on your own and you would be more comfortable with a lawyer, then a lawyer would be best.

In OP's case, the concern is not about missing steps - it's the fact that for his particular type of visa, you have to make a compelling and persuasive argument to a consular officer who has almost total discretion to approve or deny.  Immigration lawyers know what types of arguments are most effective in getting an approval, and know how to write them in a way that will be persuasive.  I would do it, OP, and that deal they offered you is really good.  I'm a lawyer - we rarely give any sort of guarantee-or-your-money-back deal, and if they do, they probably really do think they can get you approved.

hope2retire

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2017, 08:55:42 PM »
Things are straightforward in both NIW and EB1A application process if you know what you are doing. Think of it like applying for a grant for funding, but you have to explain to someone in a layman's terms (the consular officer will not know if your increased the performance of something by 100%, but if you can tie that performance to how many cubic meters of CO2 reduced in a year by a single truck, makes it big)
Either way, you have to provide all information to lawyers, the lawyers just present your case. They dont cook anything up for you that you have not already done, just use the information you provide and put it in simpler terms, which sometimes being on the Phd side, ppl find it it difficult.

1. subject of work, how it benefits at large the american society
2. How you are at the top of things (awards,citations, funds, Recommendation)
3. Cover letter stating each of the facts in simpler terms, with PROOF(i typed this in CAPS for a reason). The proof is like aka citations in your research papers. This is more, checking with facts  what is available as material facts (citations, patents, company using your patents etc...
4. follow websites(trackitt.com) learn more, even if you hire a lawyer, you need to read it before signing it off. You should know what the lawyers are doing.

Good luck

H2R

« Last Edit: October 19, 2017, 08:58:24 PM by hope2retire »

sequoia

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2017, 11:18:30 PM »
In this day and age, with this hostile administration views on immigration? Get an expert who knows what they are doing. You wouldn’t perform surgery on yourself just because you can watch a YouTube video on it.

Obviously you need to know the process, which sounds like you already did some research, but I would also spent time to find a lawyer who specialized at this process.

It is like you need to get a surgery, you want the best doctor with miles of experience doing this for you, not just some doctor who just graduated.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2017, 02:36:57 AM »
I DIYed my marriage green card, successfully.

The EB-2 sounds significantly more difficult, but the fact that you have access to successful petitions is a huge advantage. In your shoes, I'd probably take the gamble and have a go at it myself.

You can apply again if it fails, right?

former player

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2017, 04:59:54 AM »
If it were just a matter of filling forms, I would say do it yourself.

But a 20 page free-form letter is an entirely different beast. So are 5-6 letters of recommendation.  The lawyers will know not just the facts to put in but the right phrases to use in order to get the right kind of attention from the immigration officers and match up what they say to the policy documents which the immigration officers are following.

Pay the damn money.  A green card for $7k sounds like a complete bargain.  Quite possibly 90% of the planet would agree with me on this.
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Dave1442397

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #9 on: October 20, 2017, 06:09:07 AM »
Pay the $5k. I wouldn't even think twice about it in your situation.

MayDay

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2017, 06:42:33 AM »
I would definitely pay.
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dcozad999

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2017, 07:45:23 AM »
We DIY'd my wife's green card ourselves successfully, but it was a lot of work, and major pain in the ass. The birth certificate and immunization records was the biggest pain in the ass. Colombia really didn't keep great records on immunizations back when she was a kid, and we had to get someone to basically translate/transcribe the birth certificate and then get it notarized.  Then of course we waited anxiously hoping nothing was left out/done incorrectly.

Your green card application seems significantly more difficult and you seem to have the means, so I would get a lawyer.  We knew that my wife would get the green card eventually since we were legally married. Yours seems to carry significantly more risk. I say write the check and forget about it.

historienne

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #12 on: October 20, 2017, 07:45:36 AM »
There may be a middle ground.  When we did my husband's immigration paperwork, we did all of it ourselves and then paid a lawyer by the hour for a consultation; you might be able to pay one to review your work for you, which might in turn reduce the cost of the lawyer.

I wouldn't do it entirely on my own, though.  There's an art and a specific language to making the relevant claims, which I think is difficult for a layperson to replicate.  (My husband's situation was different, it was a straightforward spousal visa - that is DIYable.  An EB-2 with national interest waiver, I would not DIY completely).

ETA: if you happen to be in the Bay Area, I can try to look up the lawyer's info for you.  Immigration firms are somewhat less likely to work on the hourly model, so it took us a few tries to find someone good who would work with us this way.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 07:47:13 AM by historienne »

IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #13 on: October 20, 2017, 10:39:20 AM »
Thank you all for your insightful comments! It is very valuable for me to get feedback from other mustachians since we have a similar perspective on being careful what we spend on. More people have responded saying they think I should go with the lawyer option than I expected, which has definitely shifted my view. In particular bridget:

I have been through the entire immigration process, although not the same type of visa you're going for, however it was pretty demanding as I had to submit all types of proof and documentation and letters.

I chose to not go with a lawyer and did it myself, because lawyers are expensive and because i did a lot of research on the entire process, i'm very detailed, organized and I triple check everything before submitting the necessary forms/applications. If you think you are detailed and careful enough to put the package and documentation together, then a lawyer is an unnecessary expense. If you think you would miss some steps on your own and you would be more comfortable with a lawyer, then a lawyer would be best.

In OP's case, the concern is not about missing steps - it's the fact that for his particular type of visa, you have to make a compelling and persuasive argument to a consular officer who has almost total discretion to approve or deny.  Immigration lawyers know what types of arguments are most effective in getting an approval, and know how to write them in a way that will be persuasive.  I would do it, OP, and that deal they offered you is really good.  I'm a lawyer - we rarely give any sort of guarantee-or-your-money-back deal, and if they do, they probably really do think they can get you approved.

It is true that I won't know exactly how to phrase things to be as convincing as possible. With access to my friends successful applications and by reading a lot of material on the websites of law firms on this topic I think that I probably have picked up at least some of the important arguments that need to be made to support my application and how to phrase them and justify with evidence.

hope2retire, it sounds like you may have done this (or the similar but even more difficult EB1) is that correct? Did you use a lawyer or prepare it yourself? Did you get any additional requests for evidence after submission?

I DIYed my marriage green card, successfully.

The EB-2 sounds significantly more difficult, but the fact that you have access to successful petitions is a huge advantage. In your shoes, I'd probably take the gamble and have a go at it myself.

You can apply again if it fails, right?

This is a good point to bring up. You can apply again if it fails, however they know that you failed last time, and presumably will look at why you failed and make sure that your new application is significantly improved in this category. To me this is the main risk, so I would want to be pretty confident I would pass the first time if I was going to submit myself.

There may be a middle ground.  When we did my husband's immigration paperwork, we did all of it ourselves and then paid a lawyer by the hour for a consultation; you might be able to pay one to review your work for you, which might in turn reduce the cost of the lawyer.

I wouldn't do it entirely on my own, though.  There's an art and a specific language to making the relevant claims, which I think is difficult for a layperson to replicate.  (My husband's situation was different, it was a straightforward spousal visa - that is DIYable.  An EB-2 with national interest waiver, I would not DIY completely).

ETA: if you happen to be in the Bay Area, I can try to look up the lawyer's info for you.  Immigration firms are somewhat less likely to work on the hourly model, so it took us a few tries to find someone good who would work with us this way.

This is an interesting possibility. I wonder what those who said I should go with a lawyer would suggest for this. I doubt the firm that offered me the $5k flat fee would want to do this, since they are high volume (they process thousands of these per year). But maybe I can find a good lawyer who would help with this. I wonder if it would end up being much cheaper though - I have no idea what an hourly rate or total amount of time reviewing would be for this. Unfortunately I am not in the bay area, but I imagine most stuff could be done online anyway so maybe you could pm me the lawyers contact details anyway?

 

sequoia

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #14 on: October 20, 2017, 11:52:04 PM »
OP if you still trying to decide, one advice I can say is there are many ways to obtain GC. Some ways are harder, more complicated. I have heard via marriage is the least complicated way to obtain GC. I know personally three people (one coworker, two college buddies) who got married to a US citizen and I believe they all DIY the paperwork. They all successfully get their GC.

However, this story got nothing to do with your situation. Your situation sounds like a lot more complicated, so you need to hear  stories from people who had the same exact situation as you (who applied for EB-2). Personally I do not know anyone who had applied EB-2.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 11:53:50 PM by sequoia »

lizzzi

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2017, 07:33:14 AM »
Just as an outsider who has never had to deal with these issues, I would say use the lawyer. Why leave any stone unturned? This is important stuff. And the climate in the U.S. right now is very anti-immigrant.

Rightflyer

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2017, 08:06:07 AM »
I've had to get NAFTA (TN) visas several times. (Allows a Canadian to work/live in the US.)

Always used experienced immigration lawyers.
They know the ins and outs.

It is a real minefield, and apparently getting worse.



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SnackDog

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2017, 08:23:40 AM »
If it is important to you (ie you plan to stay in the US), then get the attorney.  If not, wing it.  I'm not sure how a denied application will hurt your future chances but I imagine it gets recorded in the system.

If I were you I would definitely pay for an attorney, but I would look for a much lower fee.  I would generate all the paperwork myself then have them review it and manage the submission.
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former player

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2017, 10:19:21 AM »
If it is important to you (ie you plan to stay in the US), then get the attorney.  If not, wing it.  I'm not sure how a denied application will hurt your future chances but I imagine it gets recorded in the system.

If I were you I would definitely pay for an attorney, but I would look for a much lower fee.  I would generate all the paperwork myself then have them review it and manage the submission.
Speaking as a (former) lawyer used to dealing with cases justifying "national interest", having a lawyer look over paperwork that has already been done is not necessarily easier or cheaper for the lawyer and does not necessarily get the same result.  It looks to me as though OP got a reasonable fixed fee offer from lawyers who know what they are doing and will do it best if they generate their own documents rather than trying to sort out someone else's effort.  They would probably charge more for the difficulty of sorting out someone else's draft or just set it aside and start from scratch anyway.

Filling in forms is one thing, and probably OK for someone intelligent, educated and conscientious who is used to complicated paperwork to do.  Writing a persuasive 20 page case why someone should be granted a visa against the general run of policy on grounds of national interest is a completely different proposition and not for the amateur.
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IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2017, 02:38:33 PM »
If it is important to you (ie you plan to stay in the US), then get the attorney.  If not, wing it.  I'm not sure how a denied application will hurt your future chances but I imagine it gets recorded in the system.

If I were you I would definitely pay for an attorney, but I would look for a much lower fee.  I would generate all the paperwork myself then have them review it and manage the submission.
Speaking as a (former) lawyer used to dealing with cases justifying "national interest", having a lawyer look over paperwork that has already been done is not necessarily easier or cheaper for the lawyer and does not necessarily get the same result.  It looks to me as though OP got a reasonable fixed fee offer from lawyers who know what they are doing and will do it best if they generate their own documents rather than trying to sort out someone else's effort.  They would probably charge more for the difficulty of sorting out someone else's draft or just set it aside and start from scratch anyway.

Filling in forms is one thing, and probably OK for someone intelligent, educated and conscientious who is used to complicated paperwork to do.  Writing a persuasive 20 page case why someone should be granted a visa against the general run of policy on grounds of national interest is a completely different proposition and not for the amateur.


Thanks everyone, and particularly SnackDog and former player, these are very valuable inputs. I emailed my resume to another firm which are less hands on to see if they quote a lower price, and mentioned that I have already prepared draft documents. However, it is a very valid point that the firms with most experience probably have a pretty streamlined process for these cases and they almost certainly would prefer to stick to their trusted protocols for generating submissions rather than wading through what could be a pretty shoddy draft from an applicant inexperienced in legal matters (like me).

Former player, as a former immigration lawyer and mustachian, you are probably in the best position I could imagine to give me advice on this. Thank you for your input! Given your and everyone else's advice and input, I am more and more inclined to go for the lawyer option. I will probably try to shop around a little more on price. Another thing is that the firm that have offered me the $5k fixed fee only help prepare the I-140, but not the I-485. The I-140 is definitely the hard one, since it requires the 20 page persuasive argument and letters etc, and the I-485 is more straight forward filing documents, but if I am going to have a lawyer it would be nice to have them help with both.

One overall comment I would like to make. It bugs me a little bit when I hear some Americans talking about how it is so easy to immigrate to the US. It seems pretty damn hard to me!

former player

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2017, 05:41:44 PM »
er, small correction, government lawyer here rather than immigration lawyer, and not in the USA.  But I was on the receiving end of various cases trying to get permissions by proving an overriding national interest, so I'm familiar with the sorts of documents that are involved and I've seen inexperienced people cock them up to the tune of seven figures.
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MrSal

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2017, 11:02:08 AM »
If it is important to you (ie you plan to stay in the US), then get the attorney.  If not, wing it.  I'm not sure how a denied application will hurt your future chances but I imagine it gets recorded in the system.

If I were you I would definitely pay for an attorney, but I would look for a much lower fee.  I would generate all the paperwork myself then have them review it and manage the submission.
Speaking as a (former) lawyer used to dealing with cases justifying "national interest", having a lawyer look over paperwork that has already been done is not necessarily easier or cheaper for the lawyer and does not necessarily get the same result.  It looks to me as though OP got a reasonable fixed fee offer from lawyers who know what they are doing and will do it best if they generate their own documents rather than trying to sort out someone else's effort.  They would probably charge more for the difficulty of sorting out someone else's draft or just set it aside and start from scratch anyway.

Filling in forms is one thing, and probably OK for someone intelligent, educated and conscientious who is used to complicated paperwork to do.  Writing a persuasive 20 page case why someone should be granted a visa against the general run of policy on grounds of national interest is a completely different proposition and not for the amateur.


Thanks everyone, and particularly SnackDog and former player, these are very valuable inputs. I emailed my resume to another firm which are less hands on to see if they quote a lower price, and mentioned that I have already prepared draft documents. However, it is a very valid point that the firms with most experience probably have a pretty streamlined process for these cases and they almost certainly would prefer to stick to their trusted protocols for generating submissions rather than wading through what could be a pretty shoddy draft from an applicant inexperienced in legal matters (like me).

Former player, as a former immigration lawyer and mustachian, you are probably in the best position I could imagine to give me advice on this. Thank you for your input! Given your and everyone else's advice and input, I am more and more inclined to go for the lawyer option. I will probably try to shop around a little more on price. Another thing is that the firm that have offered me the $5k fixed fee only help prepare the I-140, but not the I-485. The I-140 is definitely the hard one, since it requires the 20 page persuasive argument and letters etc, and the I-485 is more straight forward filing documents, but if I am going to have a lawyer it would be nice to have them help with both.

One overall comment I would like to make. It bugs me a little bit when I hear some Americans talking about how it is so easy to immigrate to the US. It seems pretty damn hard to me!

Honestly... I have shared stories with people that used attorney for their GC paperwork and still got errors or NOAs which makes it take even more time.

Also, a lot of the work still had to be done by the person according to what they told me.

This was to immediate relative green cards but pricing was about the same ...

That;s why I DIYed... and to be honest, other than the waiting time, which there is nothing you can do nor an attorney, it wasn't at all difficult. Just a matter of gathering documentation, writing cover letters and other statements of proof and just filling the forms, which come with clear instructions.

you can use VisaJourney.com as a guide ... lots of info there.

lhamo

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2017, 11:09:39 AM »
Way back in INS days, we prepared DH's greencard application ourselves.  Spousal greencards are a whole different game than this.  Since this firm offers a refund if you don't succeed, I would go with them.   $5k for an almost guaranteed greencard seems a pretty good deal to me.
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Distshore

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2017, 11:44:45 AM »
I DIYed a spousal GC.  That's relatively easy - they have to find a reason to deny you.  Here, they have to find a reason to accept you.  I would take the lawyer, and it sounds like you were offered a good deal.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2017, 12:21:36 PM »
Given their "full refund" policy, I would view the $5000 as an insurance policy.

Yes, you can do it yourself and will probably be successful, but is it worth it to you to pay $5000 for the peace of mind of knowing that "probably" goes to "basically guaranteed."

I used one for my spousal visa. We really didn't need one. Being an English speaking spouse from Canada, my case was trivial.

And yet, I would likely pay for one again. I didn't have to lose any sleep over being allowed to stay in the country, and that was worth a lot. While the chances for success are high, the stakes are also high.

jamesbond007

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #25 on: October 23, 2017, 08:13:20 PM »
EB-2? Why are you doing it? Is your employer refusing to sponsor? If so, find a new one.
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Paul der Krake

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #26 on: October 23, 2017, 08:19:45 PM »
EB-2? Why are you doing it? Is your employer refusing to sponsor? If so, find a new one.
He's doing a postdoc.

LeRainDrop

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2017, 10:02:47 PM »
I have been through the entire immigration process, although not the same type of visa you're going for, however it was pretty demanding as I had to submit all types of proof and documentation and letters.

I chose to not go with a lawyer and did it myself, because lawyers are expensive and because i did a lot of research on the entire process, i'm very detailed, organized and I triple check everything before submitting the necessary forms/applications. If you think you are detailed and careful enough to put the package and documentation together, then a lawyer is an unnecessary expense. If you think you would miss some steps on your own and you would be more comfortable with a lawyer, then a lawyer would be best.

In OP's case, the concern is not about missing steps - it's the fact that for his particular type of visa, you have to make a compelling and persuasive argument to a consular officer who has almost total discretion to approve or deny.  Immigration lawyers know what types of arguments are most effective in getting an approval, and know how to write them in a way that will be persuasive.  I would do it, OP, and that deal they offered you is really good.  I'm a lawyer - we rarely give any sort of guarantee-or-your-money-back deal, and if they do, they probably really do think they can get you approved.

+1.  I was an attorney at a big firm that had a business immigration section and I was good friends with one of the attorneys there.  As I understand it, EB-2 visa applications are very closely scrutinized by USCIS.  If you have the money to afford the lawyer who's confident enough to offer you those odds, that's the course of action I personally would take.  If you skip the lawyer and get denied on the first try, I'd be very concerned about the odds of prevailing on subsequent attempts.

rpr

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #28 on: October 24, 2017, 01:02:22 AM »
I'd get the good lawyer. $5k is well worth the peace of mind. I repeat again *get the good lawyer*, versus a cheap one. It is well worth it.

Plus there is something about a document when it is the letterhead when of a good law firm vs what is prepared by you. Even though your application may have been better prepared by yourself, the lawyer's letterhead will have tend to have a greater weight.



Asalbeag

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #29 on: October 26, 2017, 05:37:59 AM »
A lawyer is completely unnecessary unless you have an unusual case (illegal status, criminal record etc) the documentation and instructions are very clear. If you can do your own taxes then you can do this. I would argue that a lawyer will be less invested and less thorough than you yourself.


sequoia

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #30 on: October 26, 2017, 06:00:00 AM »
A lawyer is completely unnecessary unless you have an unusual case (illegal status, criminal record etc) the documentation and instructions are very clear. If you can do your own taxes then you can do this. I would argue that a lawyer will be less invested and less thorough than you yourself.

Since you mention that the documentation and instructions are very clear, have you done this? What was the outcome?

IMHO, this paperwork sounds like a h*** more complicated than filling out personal taxes. Tax forms do not include 20 pages of cover letter plus several letters of recommendation.

KCM5

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #31 on: October 26, 2017, 07:19:23 AM »
A lawyer is completely unnecessary unless you have an unusual case (illegal status, criminal record etc) the documentation and instructions are very clear. If you can do your own taxes then you can do this. I would argue that a lawyer will be less invested and less thorough than you yourself.

I've done the paperwork for family visas/green cards and would agree on that. It wasn't a big deal at all. But this visa seems much more complicated. I'd go with a lawyer in this case and think the OP is making the right choice.

reformingSucka

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #32 on: October 26, 2017, 10:10:51 AM »
Hi OP, take the lawyer 5K insurance policy like offer. Be sure you have a good lawyer, either ask for references and also reference check them on their state specific Bar Admission webpage. For California it is calbar.org - the organization that licenses lawyers to practice law in a given state/ jurisdiction. 5K sounds very reasonable, and the money back offer sounds a tad to good to be true, hence the recommendation to double-check references. If it is true - I think 5K is MMM approved pricing!

I am a lawyer, and have lawyer friends who are specialized in immigration law and talk shop all the time. EB2 are challenging and long processes, and note also the immigration policy climate.

Also, your state most likely has a lawyer referral phone number or webpage. Maybe call a couple other lawyers - usual initial consult is free.

CNM

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #33 on: October 26, 2017, 10:48:14 AM »
I worked in an immigration law firm when I was in law school.  These types of visas are not easy to get.  Many very qualified and extraordinary people get denied.  As someone up-thread said, these applications are highly scrutinized. Once of the most important benefits I saw to using an immigration lawyer (granted, this was over a decade ago) is that the lawyers often knew people at USCIS if there were questions or concerns. 

If you get a money back guarantee- even if it's only partial- seems like a low risk proposition.  I'd consider it money well spent.

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #34 on: October 26, 2017, 11:01:56 AM »
I like thinking of the fee being refundable as cheap insurance - presuming of course you've done your due diligence and that policy is honored, not a scam.
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Paul der Krake

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #35 on: October 26, 2017, 11:02:57 AM »
Is the whole thing refundable or just the billed hours?

bridget

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #36 on: October 27, 2017, 12:41:42 AM »
I'm honestly getting a little frustrated at all of the people who think that lawyers are totally unnecessary for this type of thing.  For the types of visas where you are guaranteed to get approved as long as you include all of the necessary supporting documentation and tick the boxes, however complicated, sure.  A conscientious amateur will do as well as a professional.  But let's underscore that this type of visa is almost completely discretionary, and unreviewable except for very extreme circumstances (google "consular nonreviewability."  Even for reviewable visas, as a federal law clerk I dismissed dozens of them almost summarily because the front-line immigration judges get so much deference).  A marriage-based green card is totally different; as long as you fit the qualifications, you get one; nobody has to be convinced, other than that your marriage isn't a sham. 

OP, let's say you don't get a visa and have to go back to Ireland for even one single year while you wait to do it again (and as you note, your chances will be worse next time because you have a ding on your record).  Will you make $5k less than you would in the U.S. for that year?  If so, pay the money; it's an easy choice.  Shop around for quality, check references, but don't shop around for price below this price point, because you are already at the lowest end I know of for quality.  I have half a dozen law school classmates I think are fairly dim who opened up solo law firms and said they were immigration attorneys; they have no clue what they were doing, and would have charged you $5k easy.  If you have a good lawyer for $5k, do it. 

IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #37 on: October 27, 2017, 06:05:20 PM »
Wow, lots of responses, so I should give an update!

I decided to go with the $5k offer (with the money back guarantee). This thread has played no small part in that decision - so thanks everyone who chimed it with their opinions, it was very useful to hear all sides of the argument. My conclusion in the end was that by preparing my own application I would probably spend significantly more time, and would probably spend a lot more time just generally being stressed out about it because I would be the only person with the responsibility to check my application. My probability of success would probably still be pretty good I think, but certainly not close to the 99.6% claimed by the law firm.

Shop around for quality, check references, but don't shop around for price below this price point, because you are already at the lowest end I know of for quality.  I have half a dozen law school classmates I think are fairly dim who opened up solo law firms and said they were immigration attorneys; they have no clue what they were doing, and would have charged you $5k easy.  If you have a good lawyer for $5k, do it. 

I did a limited amount of additional shopping around, and found some other reputable law firms, but the impression that I got from my research was that the $5k law firm I had found initially are considered to be one of the best in the industry. Many people said this on forums on the topic, and I also had a personal recommendation for this firm from a friend who went through the process with them and said they were great (although he is a very famous researcher who just got a chaired faculty position at a top-5 US university, so it would be hard to screw up his green card application). Honestly, the most suspicious thing about this law firm was that I couldn't find anything bad about them! They do hundreds of applications per month and all I could find were glowing reviews of there services.

OP, let's say you don't get a visa and have to go back to Ireland for even one single year while you wait to do it again (and as you note, your chances will be worse next time because you have a ding on your record).  Will you make $5k less than you would in the U.S. for that year?  If so, pay the money; it's an easy choice. 

This is a good question. Certainly I would be paid less than I am now, but I am in a postdoc position and don't even know which country I will be in after this position. My field is very specialized and there are a few groups scattered across the world that I would be happy to work in for my next postdoc before applying for permanent positions. There is a good chance (maybe 50%) that even with a green card, I wouldn't stay in the US for my next job. However, if I do stay in the US, a green card will open up opportunities for me and will make things easier for sure, particularly if I end up looking for positions in research outside of academia.

Is the whole thing refundable or just the billed hours?

The law firm will refund the money I spend on them - which is a flat $5k fee (irrespective of how much or little time they spend on my case). I will not be refunded the $2k that I will spend on application fees which go to the government and presumably pay the salaries of the people who assess the applications etc.



Plus there is something about a document when it is the letterhead when of a good law firm vs what is prepared by you. Even though your application may have been better prepared by yourself, the lawyer's letterhead will have tend to have a greater weight.


This is a bit like something my parents said, which I thought couldn't really make much impact to a well trained professional, but maybe it does. They said that by a lawyer saying things in third person "he has demonstrated he is exceptional by..." as opposed to me saying things like "I have shown I am exceptional by..." it sounds much more convincing (not to mention less boastful).

So overall, I think I am happy with the decision to go with the lawyer. I guess being in a financial position to pay for something like this without it making much difference to my day to day life is why mustachianism appeals to me.

Thanks all for your help! I will try to remember to update when the process is all through (it could be about a year...)!

peppermint

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #38 on: October 28, 2017, 09:27:47 PM »
[previously, I was postdoc on J-1, now in a tenure-track position on H-1 and getting my shit together to apply for GC]

Get the lawyer. Are you kidding? 5K or your money back sounds like a great deal to me. I've heard of other postdocs paying ~6-8K for this kind of paperwork. This is not the same as a marriage GC.

If my uni's international office wasn't facilitating the process for me, I'd ask you what law office you got that offer from so I could go take it. :P

Best of luck!


Tom Bri

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #39 on: October 29, 2017, 12:28:16 AM »
Way back in INS days, we prepared DH's greencard application ourselves.  Spousal greencards are a whole different game than this.  Since this firm offers a refund if you don't succeed, I would go with them.   $5k for an almost guaranteed greencard seems a pretty good deal to me.

I'm with IHAMO on this. We did the spouse green card, it was annoying and time-consuming, and scary! We had been married 10 years and had two kids, and still could have been denied for no more reason than the agent didn't like us. That firm offering a refund for failure sounds reasonable, though I'd verify that their numbers are reliable and they really do get that level of success and really do a full refund for failure.

Asalbeag

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #40 on: November 02, 2017, 09:23:59 PM »
I still believe you will have more invested in this than any lawyer and would therefore be more thorough, I agree however that unfortunately in these cases it can be about tricks of the trade rather than everyone bring treated equally under the defined rules.

You mentioned that you may not stay in the US even if you got permanent residency, you should be aware of the consequences of surrendering your green card should you ever wish to return in the future.

milliemchi

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #41 on: November 04, 2017, 07:26:23 PM »
Without reading through the whole thread... Been there, done that. Pay the lawyer and let them do their thing. They are there to check all the numerous little boxes on the immigration forms in the correct way. You don't want to pay the application fee, only to have the form returned because you have not checked this or that box. Then you have to resubmit, pay the fee again, get back in line... Or worse yet, it turns out you misrepresented something. I'm not writing this for fear-mongering, I actually looked at each form that my lawyer submitted and evaluated the likelihood of me doing it on my own, and found that there was legal knowledge/information that I simply did not have. It's maybe 1% of the job, but I did not have the info.

I'm guessing that this is not just about the money. I do get the exhilarating feeling that one gets from hacking the system. I really get it. But if I were to do it again, I would still get a lawyer.

sequoia

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #42 on: November 05, 2017, 01:08:50 AM »
I still believe you will have more invested in this than any lawyer and would therefore be more thorough, I agree however that unfortunately in these cases it can be about tricks of the trade rather than everyone bring treated equally under the defined rules.

I am sure OP is more invested than the lawyer, it is his application and the outcome impact his life. But imo this got nothing to do with being more invested and being more thorough. You can be thorough as much as you want, re-read everything 10x etc. Bottom line is that the lawyer is going to know something that you do not know (assuming you get a good lawyer), and that may determine pass/fail the application.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2017, 10:47:16 PM by sequoia »

IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #43 on: November 05, 2017, 11:16:01 AM »
Without reading through the whole thread... Been there, done that. Pay the lawyer and let them do their thing. They are there to check all the numerous little boxes on the immigration forms in the correct way. You don't want to pay the application fee, only to have the form returned because you have not checked this or that box. Then you have to resubmit, pay the fee again, get back in line... Or worse yet, it turns out you misrepresented something. I'm not writing this for fear-mongering, I actually looked at each form that my lawyer submitted and evaluated the likelihood of me doing it on my own, and found that there was legal knowledge/information that I simply did not have. It's maybe 1% of the job, but I did not have the info.

I'm guessing that this is not just about the money. I do get the exhilarating feeling that one gets from hacking the system. I really get it. But if I were to do it again, I would still get a lawyer.

I am curious, did you go through the same EB2 NIW process? If so, how long did it take?

I have started working with the lawyers now, and they seem very efficient. They are doing some things quite differently from what I would have done alone (they are not using the more famous of my suggested recommendation letter writers for example, and are instead opting for those who have cited my research). They have also opted for fewer recommendation letters than I would have used - they want to use 4 rather than at least 6. It is also interesting to see parts of my case that they suggest we don't mention at all, because other aspects of my case are already strong enough and have more tangible evidence. These are all things for which having the lawyers' experience seems to be useful. I imagine that they are reducing the probability of being issued a "request for evidence" which would significantly draw out the time for my case.   

milliemchi

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #44 on: November 05, 2017, 01:36:21 PM »
Without reading through the whole thread... Been there, done that. Pay the lawyer and let them do their thing. They are there to check all the numerous little boxes on the immigration forms in the correct way. You don't want to pay the application fee, only to have the form returned because you have not checked this or that box. Then you have to resubmit, pay the fee again, get back in line... Or worse yet, it turns out you misrepresented something. I'm not writing this for fear-mongering, I actually looked at each form that my lawyer submitted and evaluated the likelihood of me doing it on my own, and found that there was legal knowledge/information that I simply did not have. It's maybe 1% of the job, but I did not have the info.

I'm guessing that this is not just about the money. I do get the exhilarating feeling that one gets from hacking the system. I really get it. But if I were to do it again, I would still get a lawyer.

I am curious, did you go through the same EB2 NIW process? If so, how long did it take?

I have started working with the lawyers now, and they seem very efficient. They are doing some things quite differently from what I would have done alone (they are not using the more famous of my suggested recommendation letter writers for example, and are instead opting for those who have cited my research). They have also opted for fewer recommendation letters than I would have used - they want to use 4 rather than at least 6. It is also interesting to see parts of my case that they suggest we don't mention at all, because other aspects of my case are already strong enough and have more tangible evidence. These are all things for which having the lawyers' experience seems to be useful. I imagine that they are reducing the probability of being issued a "request for evidence" which would significantly draw out the time for my case.

I did, but it was a while back. Gathering documents took about 6 months, but it could have been done faster if I devoted more time to it. I was also at an earlier stage in my career (it seems), so had to reach wide for letters, etc. After we had all the documents, we were stuck in the post-9/11 processing limbo for a while. It took ~2 years to get processed, I think it goes faster now.

IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #45 on: November 08, 2017, 12:16:47 PM »

I am curious, did you go through the same EB2 NIW process? If so, how long did it take?

I have started working with the lawyers now, and they seem very efficient. They are doing some things quite differently from what I would have done alone (they are not using the more famous of my suggested recommendation letter writers for example, and are instead opting for those who have cited my research). They have also opted for fewer recommendation letters than I would have used - they want to use 4 rather than at least 6. It is also interesting to see parts of my case that they suggest we don't mention at all, because other aspects of my case are already strong enough and have more tangible evidence. These are all things for which having the lawyers' experience seems to be useful. I imagine that they are reducing the probability of being issued a "request for evidence" which would significantly draw out the time for my case.

I did, but it was a while back. Gathering documents took about 6 months, but it could have been done faster if I devoted more time to it. I was also at an earlier stage in my career (it seems), so had to reach wide for letters, etc. After we had all the documents, we were stuck in the post-9/11 processing limbo for a while. It took ~2 years to get processed, I think it goes faster now.

Wow, that is a really long time. I am hoping to have it sorted out within a year, but maybe that is wishful thinking (especially given the attitude to immigration of the current administration). I have another 20 months or so on my postdoc I have already experienced a few changes that have made the skilled immigration process more slow and difficult, and there are more changes on the horizon. Hopefully the 20 months is enough to figure these things out!

LeRainDrop

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #46 on: November 08, 2017, 03:13:38 PM »

I am curious, did you go through the same EB2 NIW process? If so, how long did it take?

I have started working with the lawyers now, and they seem very efficient. They are doing some things quite differently from what I would have done alone (they are not using the more famous of my suggested recommendation letter writers for example, and are instead opting for those who have cited my research). They have also opted for fewer recommendation letters than I would have used - they want to use 4 rather than at least 6. It is also interesting to see parts of my case that they suggest we don't mention at all, because other aspects of my case are already strong enough and have more tangible evidence. These are all things for which having the lawyers' experience seems to be useful. I imagine that they are reducing the probability of being issued a "request for evidence" which would significantly draw out the time for my case.

I did, but it was a while back. Gathering documents took about 6 months, but it could have been done faster if I devoted more time to it. I was also at an earlier stage in my career (it seems), so had to reach wide for letters, etc. After we had all the documents, we were stuck in the post-9/11 processing limbo for a while. It took ~2 years to get processed, I think it goes faster now.

Wow, that is a really long time. I am hoping to have it sorted out within a year, but maybe that is wishful thinking (especially given the attitude to immigration of the current administration). I have another 20 months or so on my postdoc I have already experienced a few changes that have made the skilled immigration process more slow and difficult, and there are more changes on the horizon. Hopefully the 20 months is enough to figure these things out!

Do you have an employer who's filing the Form I-140 for you?  Or does that step not come until later in the process?

IrishMustacian

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #47 on: November 08, 2017, 04:11:52 PM »
Do you have an employer who's filing the Form I-140 for you?  Or does that step not come until later in the process?

No, I am not going through my employer at all since I am a postdoc, which is a finite length (typically 2-3 years) position. The I140 is part of the EB2 NIW petition that I am doing with the lawyer. Is there a reason you ask LeRainDrop?

LeRainDrop

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #48 on: November 08, 2017, 04:28:09 PM »
Do you have an employer who's filing the Form I-140 for you?  Or does that step not come until later in the process?

No, I am not going through my employer at all since I am a postdoc, which is a finite length (typically 2-3 years) position. The I140 is part of the EB2 NIW petition that I am doing with the lawyer. Is there a reason you ask LeRainDrop?

No particular reason.  I just thought that an employer's I-140 was a requirement for an EB-2, but this is definitely not an area of law that I know.  I was curious how that worked.  Carry on!  :-)

le-weekend

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Re: Pay an immigration lawyer, or DIY a green card applicaiton?
« Reply #49 on: November 08, 2017, 04:33:16 PM »
I have a good friend who is an immigration attorney and based on the many stories I've heard about what can go wrong, I would recommend getting a good lawyer (who has an ACTIVE, CURRENT practice in this exact field of law). Not just any attorney. Given the whims of the current administration, plus the various complexities that an average person wouldn't know about, there are lots of potential pitfalls. The US gov't does not go out of its way to make it easy to stay updated on minute changes to laws, changing filing dates and insider information that could help your case get approved, where another (identical) one fails.  Just my two cents, I've never done it. (But heck if you don't mind taking a gamble, and you have the time and patience to do meticulous research, I suppose it could be interesting to see if you can do it.)