How Much Will An Immigration Attorney Cost?
When I was filling out the paperwork for the K1 visa, I managed to do it by myself. This may not be the case for everyone but with a lot of research I felt comfortable filing the petition alone. Of course you want to make sure you complete the forms correctly so that there aren’t any delays in processing, so take the time and read the instructions that come along with the forms.
In our case we didn’t have the money to spend thousands on a immigration attorney so it wasn’t really a choice. Even if you do have the money (thanks to your rich third uncle), you must weigh the two options based on cost, time and accuracy. Most petitioners and beneficiaries want their case approved as fast as possible and believe that hiring an immigration attorney will give them an edge. Whether you use an attorney or do it yourself, it will take the same amount of time for approval.
So how exactly do you decide whether to do it yourself or hire a lawyer? There are benefits to both. The path you choose ultimately depends on what is important to you. This post may not convince you which option to choose but it will allow you to make an informed choice.
Benefits of Do-It-Yourself Visa Petition
The do-it-yourself trend is very popular when it comes to knitting hats, craft ideas and home decor; what about visa petitions? The vast majority of visa petitions are filed by applicants. There are many reasons for this but it usually comes down to cost.
1. Much lower cost (attorney fees range $700 – $3500):
We all know that lawyers make really good money. Do you know why? Because they can charge a lot of money to you, the customer, because they know immigration law. Knowledge is power! I’m not saying that you can do a few hours of reading on the internet and know everything a training attorney knows; quite the opposite. Guess what? USCIS wants to make things simple for the applicant. They offer detailed instructions with each petition and by following this – its hard to go wrong.
As long as your case is straightforward (free to marry, meet income requirement etc.) you can definitely file your petition alone.
2. You only need to pay the USCIS filing fee:
The cost of US immigration is already very expensive. Heck, USCIS is always increasing their fees so why not try to reduce your expenses by filing your own petition? If you did decide to hire an attorney to file your K1 or CR1 visa, your cost can go from $1,200 to upwards of $5,000. Again, if money isn’t an issue for you go ahead and hire someone to do the hard work for you (I know I would).
3. You can save precious resources to pay for the flight:
Once your visa is approved, the costs don’t end there. You will need to buy an airline ticket for your fiance or spouse. Ironically, a one way ticket is usually more expensive then a round-trip ticket but it’s still expensive. Then think about all the expenses you will have in the US for your partner from English classes, new clothing, increased food budget etc.
4. You become more familiar with your own case:
Okay, this may not sound that important but knowing exactly what was submitted is important. Especially during the interview. You don’t want to be caught off guard with a question about an answer you gave that you don’t remember ever checking that box. Most immigration attorney’s are great when it comes to accurately filling out the right information on a visa application but there is no guarantee that mistakes won’t be made.
If you have to review everything that your attorney files, why not just do-it-yourself?
Benefits of Hiring an Immigration Attorney
1. Peace of mind of having someone experienced working for you:
This is a big factor for many couples because of the fear they have of making a mistake on their petition. It makes sense to want someone who is experienced in filing hundreds of visa applications to complete yours as well. Another benefit to hiring an immigration attorney is being able to ask them a ton of questions.
- how long have your previous cases taken?
- what is your success rate?
- will you help fight my case if I am denied?
- what are the top reasons for denial?
An honest attorney will tell you the truth and not try to make themselves sound perfect. So, ask as many tough questions in your initial consultation as you can to weed out the “scummy” lawyers.
2. They know what USCIS is looking for your case:
Although USCIS provides instructions with all visa petitions, it can be easier to have someone just tell you what you need to file. This is American mentality. Who really wants to dedicate an hour to read the extremely “boring” guidelines on the government website when you can watch Netflix? Because an immigration attorney has completed visa applications for many different couples, they know what it takes to get approval.
Now, this isn’t to say that they don’t make mistakes. I have heard of a few horror stories where a careless attorney mistakenly made a false statement and the couple was ultimately denied. Think you can blame the attorney and USCIS will change their mind? Think again! Always review the forms that are going to be sent to the USCIS lock box, for your own peace of mind.
3. They can guide you through the interview process and can attend:
Ah, the visa interview. Not only is it the final step of the process but it is something most immigrants dread. What’s worse a job interview or a visa interview? The visa interview hands down. Think about it: you are there to prove your love for your fiance or spouse and the person interviewing you can determine the fate of your relationship and future! That is a big deal.
Some US consulates allow you to bring an attorney to the interview but other do not. Definitely double check by calling ahead of your interview date and asking them. An experience immigration lawyer will be able to tell you what types of questions will be asked and the best way to answer them (truthfully, of course).
4. They can tell you how likely you are to be denied before filing:
No one wants to think that their visa will be denied, but it does happen. Even with a rock solid case there may be something else that to consulate officer isn’t sure about like gut feeling. Yes, some CO’s make decisions based on whether they suspect fraud is being committed even without proof. An immigration attorney may be able to review your case and make a determination but this isn’t a guarantee that you will be approved.
Final Thoughts On Self-Petition vs Immigration Attorney
Okay, I have given you a breakdown of the pros for both of your options. It is up to you to decide what is more important to you and your partner. There is no wrong answer here. It really depends on whether you can afford an attorney or whether you have the time to do-it-yourself. Remember, an approval is not guaranteed and you should always double check…. no triple check your visa packet before sending it off.
One request for evidence (RFE) can set you back 2-3 months! I should know. We received an RFE for my husbands tax returns because we didn’t send in official tax transcripts and it set us back about 6 weeks. Don’t make the same mistake I did boys and girls.