Category Archives: K-1 visa

Form I-129F Approval + K-1 Visa Grant = A True Success Story

A U.S. Consulate issued the K-1 fiancée visa to our client, after it denied her requests for an F-1 student visa renewal. The switch allowed the applicant to avoid the INA 214(b) requirement to establish nonimmigrant intent. The setbacks were overcome with careful documentation to support the Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e), and thorough preparation for the K-1 visa process.

The applicant first consulted me after the U.S. Consulate used INA 214(b) to twice deny her requests for the student visa renewal. She had assumed USCIS’ approval of her application for F-1 reinstatement — after she fell out of status for three years — would automatically lead to the visa issuance.

After one more failed attempt to get the student visa, we agreed to switch to the K-1 visa based on her recent engagement to her U.S. citizen fiancé.

I advised the applicant and her U.S. citizen fiancé on the Form I-129F petition, including the documentary evidence to submit to get an approval. It took four months for USCIS to approve the petition, which is the first step in the K-1 visa process.

Within a month, we received notice from the National Visa Center to proceed with the next step of filing the Form DS-160, K-1 visa application. After receiving all the forms and documents, the U.S. Consulate scheduled her for a visa interview in April 2020.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions that began in March 2020, the Consulate cancelled the interview. At the time, our client was also traveling in Europe and got stuck there for several months.  The K-1 visa interview was eventually rescheduled in December 2020. Our client was also able to return to her home country in time for the visa interview.

I counseled her on submitting the DS-160 visa application, the police certificates, the medical exam report, and the Form I-134, Affidavit of Support.

I confirmed that her prior F-1 visa refusals would not be a problem. She had fallen out of F-1 status for three years, starting in 2015. She departed the U.S. to visit her family abroad, after USCIS approved her Form I-539 application for F-1 reinstatement. USCIS agreed her failure to maintain status was due to circumstances beyond her control.

Her being out of status for three years did not make her inadmissible for 10 years under INA 212(a)(9)(B). No USCIS or Immigration Judge had officially found that she violated her F-1 status, before she filed her Form I-539 application. Under the policy that existed at the time, she did not accrue unlawful presence toward the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar. She also had no other inadmissibility grounds, such as a criminal record or fraud/misrepresentation to obtain a U.S. immigration benefit.

The U.S. citizen petitioner was unemployed and did not meet the income requirement to sponsor her. But her uncle agreed to submit a Form I-134 as a joint sponsor.

I also advised the client on what to expect at the visa interview, including questions on her U.S. visa history, biographic data, and her relationship with her US citizen fiancé.

Despite the obstacles in her case, she was finally issued the K-1 visa in January 2021. She has 6 months to enter the United States on the K-1 visa before it expires.

Upon arrival in the United States on the K-1 visa, she will have 90 days to marry the U.S. citizen petitioner. Following the marriage, she may file a Form I-485 application for permanent residence. If the marriage occurs outside the 90-day timeframe, she may still file for the green card, but the U.S. citizen must file a Form I-130 petition with the Form I-485 application.

When she submits the I-485 application, she may include a request for a work permit and travel authorization. The K-1 visa is for a single entry to the U.S. and does not provide work authorization. While her green card application is pending, USCIS may process her work card and travel document.

If the marriage occurs and the I-485 application is approved, as expected, our client will become a permanent resident of the United States. If the marriage is at least 2 years old at the time of the I-485 approval, she will get a 10-year green card without conditions. Otherwise, she will get a conditional residence card valid for 2 years. She will then need to file a Form I-751 petition to remove conditions and maintain her green card status.

This is a true success story.


Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900

For more details, listen to Episode 5 on The Legal Immigrant podcast.


From K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa to Green Card

K-1 fiancé(e) visas aren’t just for mail-order brides (but still carry strict requirements)

Coming to America to Get Married and Get a Green Card: B-2 or K-1 Visa?

Coming to America to Get Married and Get a Green Card: B-2 or K-1 Visa? – VIDEO


This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for your situation. Each case is unique and even cases that seem similar may have different outcomes. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


The Legal Immigrant PODCAST is Now Up!

The month of January signals new beginnings and fresh starts. In December 2020 – with the new year approaching – I finally took steps to launch The Legal Immigrant podcast.

Through success stories and Q&As, the show will cover U.S. immigration problems that we help our clients solve.

Episodes 1 and 2 are now up. The podcast is available HERE  on the show’s website. Or find it on podcast apps like Apple Podcasts, SpotifyPlayer FM, and Listen Notes or via RSS feed.

At the start of 2020, I had tentative plans to launch a podcast. As a solo immigration lawyer and a productivity coach, I was conflicted on whether to start one or two podcasts. Over time, this project moved to the backburner while COVID-19, civil unrest, school closures, the November Elections, and other changes were at front and center.

Although the U.S. and other parts of the world are still not back to pre-COVID-19 “normal,” we can still attend to the essentials. We have a unique opportunity to build resilience, show grace to others, and learn new ways to maintain human connection.

Besides launching The Legal Immigrant podcast, I started another podcast, The Incrementalist. This productivity show will discuss how to make big changes or finish a big project in small steps, with the Incrementalist approach.

There’s a content strategy to release new episodes over the coming weeks. It will take systems – not goals – to keep the shows going. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, check out the first two episodes of The Legal Immigrant. If you find the podcast helpful, please share it with others. And subscribe so you don’t miss new episodes. 

And if you’d like to check out my other podcast, The Incrementalist, click HERE for the show’s website.

Your downloads, shares and subscriptions will help to grow the shows. In return, I will aim to provide valuable content and build connection with listeners through podcasting.

Thank you for your support and audience.

All the best in 2021,

Dyan Williams


U.S. Embassy Vacates INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) Charge and Issues Immigrant Visa: A True Success Story

After initially refusing our request to vacate the INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge against our client, the U.S. Embassy reconsidered its decision and issued the Immigrant Visa. Persistent follow-ups led to the applicant being cleared of the inadmissibility bar and receiving the visa for admission as a permanent resident. No Form I-601 waiver was needed because the Embassy dislodged the INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) finding it made in error.

Two years before attending his Immigrant Visa interview, the applicant had sought a K-1 fiance visa at the U.S. Embassy, based on his then-engagement to a U.S. citizen. At the K-1 visa interview, the U.S. consular officer determined his relationship with the K-1 petitioner was not genuine, but entered into solely for U.S. immigration benefits.

The Embassy returned the approved Form I-129F petition to USCIS for further review and revocation. Instead of issuing a Notice of Intent to Revoke, USCIS issued a termination notice almost 6 months later stating the 4-month validity period on the Form I-129F approval notice had expired, but the U.S. citizen fiance may file a new petition for the applicant. By that point, they had ended their relationship and called off the engagement. No further evidence was submitted to prove the bona fide nature of the relationship.

Prior to the K-1 visa application, our client’s mother had filed a Form I-130 immigrant petition for him. USCIS approved the petition within five months, but he had to wait several years for the priority date to become current so he could apply for an Immigrant Visa.

At his Immigrant Visa Interview, he received a refusal worksheet charging him with INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i), as an applicant who sought to procure a visa by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact. The Embassy noted that in adjudicating his K-1 fiance visa application, the relationship was found to not be credible.

Following the Immigrant Visa refusal due to fraud/willful misrepresentation, a close relative of the applicant contacted me for a consultation. After confirming the relationship with the K-1 petitioner was genuine but just did not work out, I agreed to represent the applicant and his mother (the Form I-130 petitioner).

I explained the applicant had the option to file a Form I-601 waiver application, as instructed by the U.S. Embassy. To get this waiver, he needed to prove to USCIS that his mother would suffer extreme hardships if he were denied admission to the United States. The long processing time and the high evidentiary standards made this a challenging path to take. The I-601 filing fee of $930 was also a factor to consider.

Because the applicant had proof of a bona fide relationship with the K-1 petitioner that was not previously submitted to USCIS or to the U.S. Consulate — and USCIS never revoked the Form I-129F approval but instead issued a termination notice — I counseled the applicant on another option, i.e. file a Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding Under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) with Request for Immigrant Visa directly with the U.S. Embassy. The applicant and his family decided to go with the Motion instead of the I-601 application.

It took several months for the applicant and his family to gather all the written testimonies and documents I had recommended they provide to support the Motion to Reconsider. With this evidence and my legal memorandum arguing how the INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) charge was made in error, I filed a request with the U.S. Embassy to reconsider the inadmissibility finding and grant the Immigrant Visa.

Upon its first review of our Motion to Reconsider and Rescind Inadmissibility Finding, the Embassy sent a reply within a week, in which it stated the applicant made a material misrepresentation in a prior K-1 visa application and was permanently ineligible to receive a visa. It added it would not accept any further evidence or appeal regarding the visa application and instructed the applicant to file for an I-601 waiver of inadmissibility.

Two weeks later, with the applicant’s consent, I submitted a Request for Supervisory Review to the U.S. Embassy, asking it to confirm whether the Motion to Reconsider was duly reviewed and highlighting the errors in the inadmissibility finding. The Embassy replied it was reviewing my inquiry and there was no guarantee on how long it would take to get a response. It again instructed the applicant to file for an I-601 waiver.

After months of waiting and sending follow-up inquiries, we finally received a response from the U.S. Embassy stating it had completed a supervisory review to reconsider this case and there has been no change to the original officer’s adjudication. It noted the applicant may file for a waiver.

A few weeks later, I filed a Request for Advisory Opinion with the Visa Office (U.S.Department of State’s Office of Legal Affairs in the Directorate of Visa Services). In particular, I asked them to review the legal question regarding whether the U.S. Embassy properly applied INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) when it denied the Immigrant Visa in this case. I provided them with a copy of the Motion to Reconsider, including the legal memorandum and supporting evidence. The Visa Office responded it had followed up on my inquiry and the case was under review.

Several months later, the Visa Office sent an update that the U.S. Embassy provided instructions to the applicant to proceed with his Immigrant Visa application. The Embassy instructed him to submit an updated Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and financial support documents. It further requested he complete a DNA test to verify the biological relationship with his mother (the Form I-130 petitioner).

After complying with the U.S. Embassy’s instructions, the applicant finally received his Immigrant Visa. He was admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident to join his mother and other close relatives who were eagerly waiting for this reunion.

This is a true success story.


Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900


This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status?

When you are physically present in the U.S., your filing for Adjustment of Status (AOS) allows you to become a permanent resident without needing to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But if you are ineligible for AOS and mistakenly file a Form I-485​, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, your request will not only be denied, but you may also be placed in removal proceedings due to failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status and/or other grounds.

General Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Foreign nationals may file for adjustment to permanent resident status if they meet the eligibility requirements at the time of submitting their ​Form I-485 application to USCIS.

Who is generally ELIGIBLE for AOS?

Immigrant categories that permit AOS include:

Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]

​Other relative of a U.S. citizen or​ relative of a lawful​ permanent resident under ​a​ family-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for a  list of family-based preference categories)

​Person admitted to the United States on a K-1 visa as a f​iancé(e) of a U.S. citizen and then marries the U.S. citizen. [A K-1 visa holder who enters a valid and bona fide marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival in the U.S. remains eligible to adjust status on that basis, even if the marriage is legally terminated (whether by death, dissolution, or divorce) prior to adjustment of status and regardless of whether he/she remarries thereafter.]

Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner

​Foreign national worker under an employment-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for list of employment-based preference categories)

Foreign national entrepreneur (EB5 immigrant employment-based category)

Special immigrant (includes religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghans and Iraqis, certain U.S. armed forces members, certain physicians)

Certain victim of human trafficking  (T nonimmigrant)

Certain victim of crime (U nonimmigrant)

Person granted asylum status

Person granted refugee status

Person selected in the ​Diversity Visa lottery program ​

Beneficiary of INA 245(i) benefits

Who is generally NOT ELIGIBLE for AOS?

With limited exceptions, foreign nationals who are barred from applying for AOS include:

Foreign national ​who last entered the United States without being inspected and admitted​ or paroled by an immigration officer. [INA 245(i) and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national who was issued a C-1/D-1 or D-2 visa as a nonimmigrant ​crewman and last entered the United States as a crewman in pursuit of related employment. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(1) bar.]

Foreign national who is now employed or has ever been employed in the United States without authorization. [ Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from these INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245 (c)(8) bars.]

Foreign national who ​is not ​in​ lawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national​ who ​has ever ​failed to continuously maintain ​a ​lawful status​ since entry into the United States​, unless the failure ​to maintain status ​was through no fault of his or her own or for technical​ ​reasons.  [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national ​who ​was last admitted to the United​ ​States​ ​in​ ​transit​ ​without​ ​a​ ​visa. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(3) bar.]

​Foreign national who was last ​admitted​ ​to​ ​Guam​ ​or the​ ​Commonwealth​ ​of the​ ​Northern​ ​Mariana​ ​Islands ​(CNMI) ​as a​ ​visitor​ ​under​ ​the Guam or CNMI​ ​V​isa​ ​Waiver Program​ and who is not a Canadian citizen. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national ​who was last ​admitted ​to the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor without a visa under the ​Visa Waiver Program. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c) bar.]

Foreign national ​who is​ deportable due to involvement in a terrorist activity or group. [​VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(6) bar, but may still be inadmissible for such activity.​]

​Foreign national who is seeking ​employment-based ​adjustment of status and ​who is not maintaining a lawful nonimmigrant status ​on the date of filing this ​application. [In some cases, the INA 245(k) exemption  excuses this INA 245(c)(7) bar.]

Foreign national who has ​ever ​violated​ ​the​ ​terms​ ​of the ​nonimmigrant status. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(8) bar.]

Foreign national who is a ​conditional permanent resident​. [Conditional permanent residents​ must instead file a Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on their status to obtain permanent residence unconditionally.]

Foreign national who was admitted to the U.S. on a K-1 nonimmigrant ​fiancé(e) visa, but did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition or foreign national who was admitted as the K-2 ​nonimmigrant​ child of a fiancé(e)​ ​whose parent did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition.​ 

INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Most applicants file for Adjustment of Status based on ​INA 245(a), which includes beneficiaries of family-based I-130 petitions and beneficiaries of employment-based I-140 petitions.

INA 245(a) does not include all the possible ways of adjusting status, such as AOS of Refugees or Asylees under INA 209(b)​, AOS of T nonimmigrants under INA 245(l), and AOS of U nonimmigrants under INA 245(m).

​​The AOS eligibility requirements under section 245(a) include:

1.  You must normally have​ been​ inspected and admitted​ ​into the United States​; or inspected and paroled into the United States.

To lawfully enter the United States, you must first present yourself for inspection to an immigration officer at a ​U.S.​ ​port of entry.

Unless you are an INA 245(i) applicant or a V​iolence ​A​gainst ​W​omen ​A​ct (VAWA)​ applicant​, you must meet the Inspected and Admitted or Paroled Requirement to qualify for AOS under section 245(a).

Although INA § 245(i) generally allows a person to adjust status despite unlawful entry to the U.S., it does not necessarily waive every ground of inadmissibility, such as INA 212(a)(9)(C), i.e. illegal re-entry to the U.S. following a removal order or accrual of unlawful presence lasting one year or more, on or after April 1, 1997. Even if a person otherwise qualifies for section 245(i) benefits, he is not eligible for AOS when the permanent bar under section 212(a)(9)(C) applies.


For lawful admission to occur, the immigration officer must authorize you to enter the U.S. in accordance with the procedures for admission.​  If, however, the admission was based on a false claim to U.S. citizenship or to U.S. nationality at the ​port of entry​, the lawful admission requirement is not met.

The most common documents showing lawful admission are:

Arrival/​Departure ​Record (Form I-94)

​Admission stamp in passport​, which may be verified using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) systems

Employment Authorization Card (Form I-688A), for special ​agricultural worker applicants, provided it was valid during the last claimed date of entry on the adjustment application

Temporary Resident Card (Form I-688), for special agricultural workers or legalization applicants granted temporary residence, provided it was valid during the​ ​last ​claimed date of entry on the ​adjustment​ application​

Border Crossing Card (Form I-586 or Form DSP-150​), provided it was valid on the date of last claimed entry.​

Plane tickets evidencing travel to the United States, or other corroborating evidence, when an Arrival/Departure Record is not required in the following situations:

  • a ​Canadian ​citizen admitted as a visitor for business, visitor for pleasure, or who was permitted to directly tr​ansit through the United States;​
  • a ​nonimmigrant residing in the British Virgin Islands who was admitted only to the U.S. Virgin Islands as a visitor for business or pleasure​;​
  • ​a Mexican ​n​ational admitted with ​a B-1/B-2 Visa and Border Crossing Card ​(Form DSP-150) ​at a land or sea ​port of entry​ as a visitor for business or pleasure ​for a period of 30 days to trave​l within 25 miles of the border;
  • a ​Mexican ​n​ational in possession of a ​Mexican diplomatic or official passport.

Waved through at port of entry

A wave through is when you present yourself for inspection, but the inspector waves you through the U.S.-Mexico or U.S-Canada land border, and allows you to enter the U.S. without asking any questions or checking your travel documents.  You must present a credible claim and submit supporting evidence, such as​ ​third party ​affidavits ​from those with personal knowledge about your wave through admission.


In some situations, you may receive a grant of parole to enter the U.S. This is a temporary, discretionary act and is not an admission. Without determining whether you may be admitted to the U.S., the immigration officer may parole you in for deferred inspection or due to urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits.

Parole in Place may also be issued to certain foreign nationals present without admission or parole, such as ​to a spouse, child, or parent of an ​a​ctive ​d​uty member of the U.S. ​a​rmed ​f​orces, a member in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or someone who previously served in the U.S. ​armed forces​ or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.

2. You must properly file an adjustment of status application.​

The Form I-485 must be filed with USCIS in accordance with ​the ​form ​instructions, when you are physically present in the United States. It must be signed, accompanied by the ​proper filing fee (unless a fee waiver is granted), submitted ​at the correct filing location​,  and filed when the priority date is current.

3. You must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa and an immigrant visa must be available when you file the adjustment of status application​ and at the time of final adjudication.​

Eligibility for an immigrant visa depends on the immigrant category in which you are filing for adjustment. Except for the Immediate Relative of a U.S. citizen category, the family-based and employment-based categories typically require a wait (sometimes for years or decades) before an immigrant visa becomes available.

4. You must be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. 

You are ineligible for adjustment if you are subject to any inadmissibility grounds listed under INA 212, such as certain criminal offenses fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits and unlawful presence. A waiver must be available and you must qualify for the waiver if you are inadmissible to the U.S.

​5. You must merit the favorable exercise of discretion.​

The approval of a Form I-485 application under certain categories, including INA 245(a) Adjustment, is a discretionary decision.  This means you are not entitled to adjustment even when you are eligible for it.

Besides evaluating your eligibility, the immigration officer also considers other factors such as your immigration status and history;​ family unity;​ length of residence in the United States;​ business and employment; and​ community standing and moral character.​

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a) 

Bars to adjusting status include unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 (INA 245(c)(2) bar); status and nonimmigrant visa violations (INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars); and failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration (INA 245(c)(7) bar). There are, however, exceptions and exemptions.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions.

# # #

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Photo by: Sam Howzit


Why hire an immigration lawyer?

Why hire a lawyer when there is lower-cost help available through immigration consultants and online immigration services?  Do you really need a lawyer when you could fill out the forms and follow the instructions yourself?

The reasons are many, from ensuring you fully understand the process to avoiding unnecessary delays.

The main advantages of hiring a trusted immigration lawyer, instead of depending on an immigration consultant or online immigration service or working on the case yourself are:

1. You receive guidance on which forms and documents to submit

A lawyer is not required to fill out application forms for immigration benefits. Anyone can complete the forms, which are, along with the instructions, available for free on U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State’s websites.

But U.S. government agencies are not your advocates and do not consider your individual situation when providing resources and information to you. Only an immigration lawyer, who truly understands the eligibility requirements, can give you the most reliable advice on which forms and documents to submit to receive immigration benefits.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can certainly help you complete forms and submit the paperwork to USCIS and DOS at a much lower cost than what lawyers charge.

Nevertheless, your knowing which forms and documents to submit is not always clear by just reading instructions or doing your own research. Immigration consultants and online immigration services are prohibited from giving any legal advice concerning your immigration case, including which forms and documents to submit. Rather, you yourself have to make this determination before they then fill out the forms with your answers and prepare the documents you have given them for filing with the appropriate U.S. government agency.

Even qualified immigration consultants and highly-rated online immigration services are just document preparers. While they are distinguishable from shady Notarios who prey on vulnerable immigrant groups and engage in immigration scams, they provide limited service that does not always meet your immigration needs.

Questions on applications forms and questions from immigration or consular officers might seem simple, but often relate to legal issues that can result in denials and setbacks in your case. Immigration consultants and online immigration processors cannot counsel you on how to best answer a question or cross-check or verify your answers on the forms. All they can do is replicate and type out your responses to the questions asked on the forms.

When non-lawyer immigration consultants or online immigration processors advise you on which immigration benefit to apply for and how to prove you qualify for it, they essentially engage in unauthorized practice of law.

In contrast, immigration lawyers advise you on which exact forms and documents to submit for a particular immigration benefit. They will cross check your answers on application forms with your biographic and immigration records to help ensure accuracy and completeness. They will also counsel you on the implications of your answers to questions, as well as the effects of providing or not providing certain documents.

2. You get legal advice on how to best present your case

A good lawyer will counsel you on eligibility standards and evidentiary requirements, including those that are not spelled out in the instructions for forms or are otherwise readily known.

For instance, while an immigration consultant or online immigration service will accept your marriage certificate and divorce decrees for prior marriages as sufficient in an I-130 spousal immigrant petition, a lawyer will counsel you on additional documents to submit to prove your marriage is valid and bona fide.

A lawyer might be unnecessary in very simple cases, where the bare minimum is all that’s required to get the case approved. But in many cases, a high volume of documentary evidence, as well as credible testimony, are needed to achieve a favorable outcome.

One of the fastest growing online immigration processors, RapidVisa, states specifically that it does not give legal advice or representation, but offers a service similar to TurboTax for visa applications. At a low price, they provide online processing of K-1 fiancée visas, spousal visas, parent visas, green cards (adjustment of status), removal of conditions, citizenship (naturalization), joint sponsorship, and deferred action (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, under President Obama).

RapidVisa boasts an approval rate of 99.7% and 4-hour turnaround time. But it’s fair to say that these cases most likely had no complications to require the work of a lawyer, and could have been handled just as well by an applicant who was willing and able to deal with the paperwork alone.

Reputable immigration lawyers, who have the expertise to deal with the worst types of cases, are best equipped to help you present the strongest case possible. They can steer you away from pitfalls that lead to complications in your case, such as USCIS issuing a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny Petition. They are trained to spot issues and weaknesses that can tank your case. Unlike immigration consultants and online immigration processors, they do not merely rely on generic templates and checklists that do not account for unique situations.

3. You obtain verification on whether you actually qualify for the benefit sought

An immigration lawyer will gather facts and review your record to confirm whether you are eligible for the immigration benefit you seek. For example, under current law, you cannot apply for a marriage-based green card within the U.S. if you were not lawfully admitted to the U.S. with inspection, and you do not qualify for 245(i) benefits. If your immigrant petition is not in the immediate relative category, you may not file for adjustment to permanent residence unless you are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status after entry as an F-1 student, H-1B worker, etc. or certain narrow exceptions apply.

Immigration consultants and online immigration processors are not equipped or authorized to verify your eligibility for a benefit sought. They cannot give advice as to which immigration status you should seek. These are legal issues that requires a lawyer’s guidance, especially when there are complications in your case.

Complications include previous marriage(s)/divorce(s), a history of visa denials, visa overstays, unlawful presence, prior removal orders, illegal entries and re-entries to the U.S., immigration fraud or willful misrepresentation, false claims to U.S. citizenship, a criminal record, and being from a high-fraud country.

In June 2016, the State of Colorado passed a law that forced RapidVisa to relocate out of Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las Vegas, Nevada, where regulations related to the document-preparation industry are favorable. Known as Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice, the Colorado law targets deceptive “notarios”, which are small operations common in Hispanic communities, but it further forbids any person from offering any immigration service, regardless of whether it involves practicing law, unless that person is a lawyer.

In a press release, Ben Ives, President of RapidVisa, stated “this was simply a case of lawyers protecting their income.” He noted, “Petitioning for a family visa is a benefit request, not a legal issue. Do you hire a lawyer to apply for your driver’s license?”

Contrary to Mr. Ives’ claim, applying for an immigration benefit involves many legal issues that determine whether a person can live, study or work in the U.S., and even visit the country. Filing for an immigration benefit has a much more serious and broader impact than applying for a driver’s license.

A U.S. citizen’s decision to bring a fiancée, spouse,  or parent to the U.S. , for example, affects the fate of the family and their reunification.  An applicant’s mistake in filing for an immigration benefit, such as a green card or citizenship, for which he does not qualify can sometimes lead him into removal proceedings and get him deported from the United States.

4. You have comprehensive counseling from start to finish

In the initial evaluation of your case, and during the course of representation, an immigration lawyer can identify your priorities and pinpoint issues to help you achieve your objectives. They can lay out your various options and describe the pros and cons of pursuing each path.

An immigration lawyer can guide you on how to avoid complications or address them as they arise, such as responding to a Request for Evidence, a Notice of Intent to Deny, a Notice of Intent to Revoke, an inadmissibility finding, or a denial decision. He or she can intervene on your behalf to resolve problems.

An immigration lawyer can also prepare you for interviews before USCIS and the U.S. Consulates by describing what questions to expect and which issues are likely to arise. Although they should not “coach” you on what to say, they may advise you on how to best present both positive and negative information.

A lawyer may appear with you at green card interviews and naturalization interviews to help protect your rights, present documentary information, and ask clarifying questions. They can further prepare and submit a legal brief to stave off concerns and persuade the officer to approve your case.

Lawyers must keep up with changes in the law, the risks (not just the benefits) of applying for immigration relief, and the nuances in the immigration process, and advise you accordingly.

A non-lawyer immigration consultant or online immigration processor cannot perform these vital services.

5. You get legal help from a licensed professional who is held to the highest ethical standards

When an immigration consultant or online immigration processor overlooks critical pieces of information or documents — which results in an avoidable revocation process, denial or delay — there is generally no recourse. You typically have to rectify the harm through their channels or file a consumer complaint with the state attorney general.

Lawyers, on the other hand, are held to ethical standards in their state rules of professional conduct. They can face disciplinary action, such as a suspension or disbarment, for failing to perform duties owed to clients. As a licensed professional, a lawyer has obligations and responsibilities that go above and beyond those of a non-lawyer immigration service.

Consult an immigration attorney at the very least 

Some states, such as California, Minnesota, and New York regulate the conduct of immigration consultants, instead of forbid them from performing any immigration service. While they may provide document preparation, they cannot offer legal advice in any situation.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can ease the stress that comes with handling the immigration paperwork yourself. But realize they do nothing more than document preparation. A complete reliance on non-lawyer immigration services gives you a false sense of security and could open you up to making mistakes and bungling your immigration matter.

Reliable legal representation may be more affordable than you assume. There are solo practitioners and small firm lawyers who charge reasonable fees for high-quality, comprehensive service. There are also non-profit legal service providers and pro-bono attorneys who will accept your case for sliding scale or reduced fees or no fees.

Almost everyone can gather funds to consult an experienced immigration lawyer at least once, or retain unbundled legal service to address the complicated parts of the case. Before you file for an immigration benefit, talk to a reputable immigration lawyer about the eligibility standards, documentary requirements and filing process. Relying on immigration consultants and online immigration processors can save you money upfront, but cost you a lot more in the long run.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


Photo by: malik