Immigration law in the United States can feel overwhelming, so it’s important for anyone trying to navigate the system to get help from an experienced immigration attorney. At Warren Law Firm, we have over 20 years of immigration law experience. The most common immigration topics we help our clients face are green cards, employment visas, family visas, investor visas, specialty visas, visitor visas, protective visas, deportation and removal defense, and writs of mandamus. As with any service, fees are involved. While there’s no doubt that you won’t want to face any part of the immigration process without a lawyer, we also understand that you will want to have an idea of the common immigration lawyer fees you will face.
What are the Most Common Immigration Lawyer Fees?
If you are immigrating to the United States, finding a state-certified immigration attorney is crucial. This is possibly the most important step you will take in your life, and there is no room for errors. While it may be tempting to find a so-called “immigration consultant” or “immigration advocate” to save money, in reality, without a state-certified, skillful attorney, you may end up spending more money in the long run and risk your visa or green card slipping away!
The most common immigration fees include consultation fees, retainer fees, filing fees and processing fees. Let’s look at each of these fees in more detail.
Immigration Lawyer Consultation Fees
When you have a consultation with an immigration lawyer, you will have the chance to explain the details of your circumstance and ask basic questions. You will be able to learn about the lawyer’s qualifications and request references. At the initial consultation, the lawyer may ask you additional questions to better understand your individual situation. At this meeting, you will be given a more specific breakdown of expected fees and an idea of the process that is ahead of you. It’s important to remember that there are many different kinds of immigration cases. Some clients reach out when they are facing deportation, and some seek legal representation to file a visa application. During your consultation, it is important that you are upfront about your needs and any questions you have.
It’s important to remember that a consultation doesn’t create a client-attorney relationship. It doesn’t guarantee that an attorney will start working for you either. It is a good opportunity for clients to get a little guidance on how to go ahead with their immigration case though, and what is talked about at the meeting is kept confidential.
Immigration Lawyer Retainer Fees
It’s important to remember that every attorney is different and so are the types of immigration cases. Importantly, if you decide to move ahead with legal representation, you will need to pay a retainer fee. Retainer fees are the most common fees, because they are essentially a deposit that you pay in advance of legal services. Retainer fees tell a law firm that you are serious about moving forward with them. Sometimes retainer fees are paid fully in advance as a percentage of the expected cost of the work, but some law firms charge retainer fees equal to the prepayment of several hours of work at their normal rate. Once a client has used up what they have paid in a retainer fee, then the lawyer or firm adds more charges as needed. Different law firms may have different retainer fees, even if their hourly rates are similar.
Once a retainer fee is paid, an attorney-client relationship is established. Most lawyers will not begin working on your case without a retainer, because the retainer fee ensures that the lawyer will be paid for their work. Retainer fees are typically set based upon how long a lawyer expects to work on your immigration case. If more time is needed once the retainer is used up, lawyers will begin charging for every hour that they work on your case after your retainer is used up.
So, for example, if you pay an attorney a $5,000 retainer fee and the attorney charges $500 per hour for the particular type of work you need, that means that you have paid in advance for 10 hours of work. If it actually ends up taking your lawyer 11 hours of work, you will be charged an added $500. Remember, your lawyer will charge you for the hours that they have worked on your case, not just the hours you are physically in the office. So, even if you talk to your lawyer on the phone or by text message, that is still considered billable hours. Other hours that are also billable include the time it takes your lawyer to find, fill out, and file the proper immigration forms and the time they take assembling your case.
Filing Fees for Immigration into the United States
When it comes to filing applications and fees with the United States government, there are different fee structures. It’s important to remember that these fees are the ones U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services charge, and they are different from the preparation fees that your immigration lawyer will charge. Additionally, it’s important to remember that USCIS fees vary depending on what type of application you need to file. Even when you look at different types of visas, you will find different filing fees.
While you may think that you can just file your own applications and save on the lawyer fees, you should know that professionally filed applications often are more likely to be approved by the USCIS. Plus, it’s simply not worth the potential error for filing an application on your own. Your lawyer will already know if supplemental forms should be turned in with your application. They will also know what kind of supporting evidence and documentation you will need for approval. It can be more costly to go back and fix errors than to just have it done right the first time. Sometimes, with immigration, you won’t have chances to go back and fix your mistakes, so it’s really important to have a lawyer at your side when sending in immigration applications.
Premium Processing Fees for Immigration into the United States
Depending on what is being filed, USCIS sometimes lets applicants pay a premium processing fee. For example, applicants can pay for premium service when they file a Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or when they file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. Premium processing services aren’t available for all forms filed, of course. Still, when they do offer the premium processing service, it actually makes sure that the application is processed within 15 days. If for some reason they can’t process the form within the 15 days, they refund the premium processing service fee. Now, keep in mind that the filing fees vary, but you can find the fee schedule on the USCIS website to get a better idea of the cost for this premium service.
If you need to file a form that allows for premium processing, it might not be worth the cost. Your lawyer can give you a better idea of whether it’s worth the expense. It will depend on your situation and whether the processing time is expected to be really long. It will be up to you to decide with the guidance of your immigration lawyer whether or not it’s worth it to pay for premium processing.
Experienced Immigration Lawyers in San Francisco
Warren Law Firm is located in San Francisco, and we are available to help you with all your immigration legal needs. We offer competitive pricing on all our fees including the consultation fee. Interpreters are available in Spanish, Korean, Thai, Mandarin and French. Contact us today to book a consultation.