Recent years have seen a rise in immigration consulting services offered by non-lawyers. When the federal government decided to permit immigration consulting by non-lawyers, the goal was to provide an affordable and easy way for customers to get help filling out their immigration forms. Unfortunately, in recent years, these non-lawyer immigration consultants have been taking advantage of their customers, often times engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, and most of the time charging far more than an attorney would charge for assistance with filling out forms.
Typically, immigration consultants will begin by convincing the customer that they do not need a lawyer. Immigration consultants are not lawyers and they do not understand the intricacies of immigration law. Many times, a person who seems like the perfect candidate for pure document preparation services actually may be barred from receiving immigration benefits. Filing for immigration benefits while being ineligible can lead to denial of benefits, and worse, deportation proceedings.
Immigration consultants will also claim that their services are less expensive than the services of an attorney. However, this is usually not the case. Immigration consultants often separate out forms that shouldn’t be separated, and then go about charging a low amount for the initial form, but then increase prices dramatically for each subsequent form that is required, trapping the customer. Moreover, often times immigration consultants will fill out the wrong forms, or prepare forms even if the person is ineligible, wasting your money.
Before consulting with a non-lawyer to prepare your immigration documentation, you should speak with an attorney. Many attorneys offer pure document preparation services without additional legal representation for competitive prices. The difference is that you have an attorney with knowledge of the intricacies of immigration law preparing your forms. If you’ve received services from an immigration consultant and were denied benefits, even though the immigration consultant guaranteed you were going to be approved, you should also talk to an attorney. State law provides a cause of action for treble damages against immigration consultants who commit fraud or otherwise violate the professional code governing immigration consultants, and, bringing a lawsuit against an immigration consultant will not affect your immigration status.