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How to Help Your Attorney Help You

by Carl Shusterman

As I tell my clients, hiring an immigration law firm to assist you is not like dropping your car off at the mechanic's and expecting everything to be fixed by the end of the day. Whether you are an employee or an employer, when you hire an immigration law firm, you are forming a virtual partnership with the law firm.

If your application is employment-based, the law firm will ask you to supply important information, advertise the job, post notices, etc. It is important to the successful conclusion of your case that you do so, and that you fully comply with your attorney's instructions in a timely matter.

Take a simple matter like scheduling and preparing for an initial consultation with a prospective attorney.

The attorney may request that you complete a lengthy consultation form so that he or she can know the basics of your immigration situation. A good form should ask about you, your family, your immigration status, your employment, your education and any labor certifications, visa petitions or other immigration applications that have been submitted on your behalf.

All too often, a person fails to fully complete the form. Reasons for this vary. They may not have all of the answers at their fingertips. They may reason, "I only want to extend my working status, so why does the attorney need to know the immigration status of my parents?" They may be too embarrassed to reveal a youthful arrest or a previous marriage. Finally, they may not trust the attorney. If the person or his employer does not wish to complete the consultation form, he is putting himself at a disadvantage. If the attorney is not privy to all of the information requested on the form, he may not be able to properly evaluate the person's eligibility for the benefit sought.

Many persons only partially complete our consultation form. One frequently omitted item concerns the person's parents and their immigration status. It is not a rare occurrence for us to question the person about their parents and learn that a U.S. citizen aunt or uncle submitted a petition for the person's mother or father over ten years ago. If the person was a minor at that time, this often qualifies them to adjust their status using section 245(i), a very important fact.

It is important that the prospective client supply the attorney with important forms relating to his case. If the government is seeking more information before deciding the merits of the application, the attorney must be able to examine the Request for Evidence (RFE) or the Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) as well as the original application. If the application has been denied, the attorney needs to be able to read the Denial.

Once a person/employer has retained an immigration law firm to represent him, he will be asked to perform a number of tasks. For example, in Schedule A and PERM cases, employers must post a notice for a minimum of ten working days, weekends excluded. Some employers comply with the requirement and send their attorneys the posting notices immediately. Other employers have to be constantly reminded to do so. This has the effect of delaying the employee's progress toward a work permit and permanent residence.

Employers and employees are often required to submit income tax returns, payroll records, W-2s, diplomas, college transcripts and letters verifying work experience. To the extent that both employers and employees provide these documents to their attorneys in a timely manner, the application process is facilitated.

Take some advice from an attorney who spent six years working for the Immigration Service: The more effort that you expend assisting your attorney, the more likely it is that your immigration case will be successful.

About The Author

Carl Shusterman is a native of Los Angeles and a 1973 graduate of the UCLA School of Law. He served as an attorney for the Los Angeles office of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) until 1982 when he entered the private practice of law. He is authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of California, the Federal District Court in the Central District of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Shusterman is a former chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Southern California Chapter and served as a member of AILA's national Board of Governors (1988-97). He has chaired numerous AILA Committees, spoken at dozens of AILA Conferences and has contributed a number of scholarly articles to AILA's publications. Mr. Shusterman is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law, State Bar of California. He serves as a member of the Immigration and Nationality Law Advisory Commission for the State Bar. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Immigration Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and of the American Bar Association. Mr. Shusterman is a frequent writer and lecturer on immigration law. Mr. Shusterman has testified as an expert witness before the Senate Subcommittee On Immigration in Washington, D.C.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.