If you’re filing a marriage-based green card or immigration case in Houston, Texas, you have options. There are numerous form fillers, notaries, notarios, and attorneys in the city who advertise that they assist with immigration cases. If you want a better image for your immigration forms in Houston, here is some information you should know.
In some cases, a form filler or notario might cost less and might see people same-day on a first-come, first-served basis. In some cases, an attorney might offer assistance with your immigration case but not actually be specialized in immigration law or have experience handling a wide range of issues with marriage-based green card applications. Please be very careful when choosing who will help you with your Immigration case. Your life in the United States is at stake.
Why you should NOT hire a notary or form filler to help you with your immigration case
If you decide to hire a notary or form filler to help you prepare documents for your marriage-based immigration case, you might feel like you’re saving money, and they get the forms done and you can just send them off. But it’s also important to know what you DON’T get when you hire a notary or a form filler to help you:
1. Notaries and form fillers don’t get copies of notices from USCIS and don’t receive calls or faxes for you, so if something is sent to you and you don’t receive it, your case can be denied.
Notaries and Form Fillers can’t designate themselves as representatives. Because they can’t do this, they don’t receive copies of notices sent to you about your case. If you have an attorney representing you, the attorney gets copies of notices issued in your case.
So if you move, and you don’t change your address online with USCIS, and your mail isn’t forwarded to you, your attorney should also get a copy of any notices issued in your case and can reach out to you. If you used a notary or form filler, they won’t get your notice and you may miss something important.
This might not seem like a big deal since USCIS has a page where you can check the online status of your case. However, the online case status isn’t always updated, and even when it is updated, if it tells you a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) has been issued in your case, you still need the paper notice.
If your file is at your local USCIS Office and you’ve been interviewed, and a USCIS officer wants to reach out about your case, it’s much easier for them to call an attorney during their business hours and talk to them about what they need or questions they have.
If you used a form filler or notary, they won’t be bale to take calls on your behalf, and if you speak directly to an officer without representation, you run the risk of misunderstanding what they’re asking for or not being able to determine whether they are requesting something that is legally required.
2. Notaries and form fillers can write that they prepared your forms for you, or they can just leave that part of the form blank.
Later on, if there’s a typo that you didn’t notice, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) might you purposely put incorrect information on the form to mislead them. Sometimes, a person putting an address where they receive mail versus the address where they actually stay with their spouse can cast doubt on whether they actually live with their spouse. Doubt about whether the couple really lives together often leads to difficult interviews at the local immigration office, and might cause USCIS to issue a Notice of Intent to Deny your marriage-based immigration petition.
3. Notaries and form fillers can’t represent you before the immigration service
You might feel like you don’t need representation in your marriage-based immigration case. What’s the big deal? You’re a couple! But if anything happens in your case that presents a problem, or if the processing of your case is delayed, the notary or form filler can’t contact USCIS on your behalf, and likely won’t know how to respond. And when it’s time for you and your spouse to go to your interview, the notary or form filler can’t go in with you.
If the officer conducting your interview is mistaken about a provision of law, or thinks that a mistake in your forms means that one of you is lying, no one is there to advocate for you and your spouse, and no one but you two and the officer know what happened. If any inappropriate questions were asked, you don’t have an advocate in the room to point this out and request a supervisor’s review of the situation.
4. Notaries and Form Fillers don’t know the Immigration and Nationality Act and the regulations that govern marriage-based immigration cases.
If you get a Request for Evidence in your Marriage-based green card application asking for proof that you have an affidavit of support showing sufficient income in your household, a notary won’t look at the Code of Federal Regulations to find the provisions that apply to your case.
A form filler won’t be able to check the Immigration and Nationality Act to confirm whether hardship to your U.S. citizen children can be considered for your waiver.
5. If a notary or form filler files an application for your case, but your case is denied, you lose the money you paid to the notary/form filler and the filing fees you paid for your case. Then you have have to start over.
If a case is denied, the filing fees you pay don’t get returned to you. They’re gone – they’re a sunk cost. The notary or form filler you hired to help you is probably not going to return the money you paid for their help.
They might even tell you “I’m not a lawyer and you knew that going into this – all I do is help you fill our forms.” If this happens (and my office has seen many instances of this), you’re probably going to have to hire an attorney to help re-file your case and you will pay the attorney’s fees and you’ll have to pay the filing fees again.
You’ll also be worried and stressed about your case, because now you have one denial, and it will be even more important to be sure it’s done right this time. So yes, a notary or form filler’s fees are sometimes less than an attorney’s fees, but if this happens, you pay much more than you might have paid if you’d worked with an experienced immigration attorney from the beginning.
6. Notaries and Form Fillers don’t follow USCIS policy changes and don’t read proposed changes to regulations, memos to USCIS on how to process cases, or case decisions from courts on immigration cases.
Attorneys who specialize in immigration read regular updates about USCIS policy changes and trends in how the Immigration Service decides its cases. Houston Immigration lawyers can help you obtain a better image for your immigration case in Houston.
Attorneys also read published court decision and often participate in professional groups in which they share their experiences and learn from each other. Notaries and form fillers don’t read case decisions and often don’t change their practices based on policy changes because many policy changes aren’t clearly announced in public.
Some changes are made through private memos between government agencies. So if you work with a notary or a form filler, you run the risk of preparing a case that would’ve worked last year, but is going to be heavily scrutinized or rejected this year. And right now, we’re in a time in which changes happen frequently and often without warning.
Our current administration has restricted many immigration benefits, increased scrutiny of immigration cases, and made a visible effort to stop people from parts of Latin America, Africa and other areas of the world from obtaining or renewing immigration benefits.
A Better Image for your Immigration Forms in Houston
This isn’t a time to save money, and it’s not a time to take risks in order to do something quickly and without being careful and deliberate about what you’re doing. A Board Certified Immigration Lawyer can follow changes in case processing and filing procedures and changes in interpretation of law by USCIS, ICE, and immigration courts.
Your attorney can receive notices in your case so that you don't miss a notice to provide documents or appear at an interview. A Board Certified Immigration Lawyer can also determine what your best options are - whether you qualify to file for a green card, whether you might have to file an additional applications in your case, and whether you are likely to be placed in immigration court and are eligible to get a bond.
Immigration Lawyer in Houston
Kathryn N. Karam and her team have hand;ed hundreds of immigration matters, including marriage-based immigration cases, applications for citizenship, temporary work visas, employment-based permanent residence petitions, cases in immigration court, violence against women act cases, and visas applications for victims of crimes. If you need help with your immigration case, call our office to schedule a consultation so we can help you figure out your options. Click the orange button below to talk to an immigration lawyer in Houston.