For anyone who’s not an immigration lawyer, the U.S. Immigration Process might appear to be simple: come in legally, file the forms you need to file to get what you want. Read the instructions on the USCIS website. Wait for the answer. Get the approval for what you want and move on.
There’s uscis.gov, where most of the immigration benefits application forms are available, and instructions for the forms are also posted. Besides that, are lots of private sites out there that are supposed to help people share information about the process so they can learn what to expect.
Why do so many people describe the immigration process as complex?
For some, filling out the forms per se isn’t a problem. After all, most people know their full name, their date of birth, address, marital status, children’s names, etc. That seems like basic information that anyone would know. So you fill out the forms, attach what the instructions ask for, and send it in.
Pretty simple, right? But what happens when the form asks a question that you think you understand, so you answer it truthfully, and then you find out that you misunderstood the question? For Telly, a woman who contacted us in the last two years, misunderstanding a question meant that her greencard application was denied.
Why do people describe the immigration process as complex? For one, U.S. immigration law and the procedures by which applications are processed are full of rules and requirements. Anyone who is not aware of these rules and the technicalities that accompany them can run into a problem during their process.
Beyond that, we often find that the really tricky part of the immigration process is guessing at how the person who ultimately sees the application and makes the decision on whether it will be approved or denied – will view it. Many people wonder what percent chance they have of success. It’s impossible to say for sure, because no one knows who will be the decision maker in your case ahead of time, and even if we did know, we wouldn’t be able to predict the future and determine how they will decide.
Why would anyone need to hire an immigration attorney to help with it?
Identifying the specific details of each case and deciding how we can best present them to whoever that decision maker may be is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a skilled immigration lawyer. We can all complete the blanks on a form that ask for a name, phone number, address, and birthdate.
Deciding how to proceed when a person who passed through a border checkpoint but has no stamps in her passport and no definitive proof that an officer allowed her to proceed into the United States, wants to understand what has happened with her greencard application – this is what an experienced immigration lawyer handles.
And this was Telly’s situation – she had filled out her application for a greencard. She wrote the place and date of her last entry into the United States. Then she got to the question “Were you inspected by a U.S. Immigration Officer?” she answered “no.” The officer at the border when she entered did not ask her anything – he just allowed her to proceed in after the driver of the car she was in showed her U.S. passport and said Telly was her daughter (which was true). What Telly did not understand was that she actually was inspected by an immigration officer. She just didn't have much evidence to prove it. Luckily, we were up for this challenge as the new attorney in her case.
Fixing the problem took some time and effort, but Telly now has a greencard (and peace of mind). Any skilled immigration lawyer is happy to help a client get out of a problem situation, and my office felt this when we learned our efforts were successful. However, we also regretted not having met Telly and her mother until after the problem arose (along with all of the worry and uncertainty that accompanied it).
When you need to know how your situation fits into the immigration law context, or you need to understand how the person who will decide your case will view your personal immigration history and your information, it’s time to seek advice from a specialized, experienced immigration lawyer.
Kathryn Karam and her office, The Law Office of Kathryn Karam, P.C., has been named one of the Top Immigration lawyers in Houston. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please follow this link:
You might also like our free Travel Guide, available for immediate download. We know that traveling internationally is stressful enough without immigration issues, but the truth is, you may be scrutinized by CBP any time you travel. Here is some free information we put together on the subject: