Anyone permanently moving to the US soon becomes familiar with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency responsible for immigration in America. Working through the different USCIS processes and procedures can be a stressful, time-consuming, and challenging task. For that reason, many people decide to hire an immigration attorney to help them with their application.
Rates for an immigration lawyer typically range between $100 and $400 an hour. Charges are also dependent on the type of work: assistance with filling in standard forms costs less than representing you in court, for example. Some charge a flat fee, ranging from $250 for a simple task, right up to thousands of dollars for complex cases like deportation.
Many individuals see an immigration lawyer as an unnecessary expense. They think that they can save themselves time and money by doing everything themselves, and perhaps that’s true in simple, uncomplicated cases. However, the reality is that immigration law is often a highly complex area, with new legislation, regulations, and rulings issued regularly. If you’re doing everything yourself, it’s all too easy to make a mistake, miss a deadline, or file the wrong documentation. All of these errors can delay - or even void - your application.
There’s no doubt that an immigration lawyer can save you time and hassle, but what can you expect to pay for the different types of service, and what factors should you consider when choosing an attorney? Read on to find out.
Anyone moving from one country to the US can benefit from an immigration lawyer’s specialist knowledge and helpful services. They can advise you on all aspects of immigration law, including the different types of US visas, how to apply for a Green Card and what it costs, working in the US, marrying a US citizen, political asylum, deportation, and more.
As with many government departments, there can be a lot of bureaucracy involved in dealing with USCIS. An experienced lawyer can often suggest ways to speed up the process or avoid more common delays.
Several variables determine how much an immigration lawyer will cost. The cost depends on the type of application, the law’s complexity, the work required, and whether it’s just for you or multiple family members.
If other aspects of the law are involved in your case - say you were convicted of a felony - you can expect charges to rise. The location and level of experience of the lawyer also have an impact on your final bill.
Because every case is unique, it’s tough to give definitive information on costs. So let’s consider some of the cost factors involved when hiring a lawyer before getting to more definitive information on how much you can expect to pay.
There are many types of immigration applications, and the more complex the area, the higher the charge. Here’s a list of application areas, from the most affordable and straightforward to the most complex and costly.
Some aspects of immigration law are relatively straightforward: fees for students coming to the US to study, marrying a US citizen, and executives moving to work in America, are all common scenarios, meaning there’s a typical application process to follow. Other situations can be more complicated, perhaps involving a broken marriage, children, the threat of deportation, or an application denial stemming from a minor felony. Ordinarily, the more complex the case - and the more work involved - the higher the bill.
A newly-qualified lawyer just out of law school will lack the experience of a seasoned attorney. It can be hugely beneficial to work with someone who’s worked on cases similar to yours and who knows exactly how the system works.
Lawyers’ fees often vary state by state but also by location. A lawyer in a big office in San Francisco will typically charge more than a one-person practice in a small town.
The cost of an immigration lawyer is dependent on a variety of factors, such as their level of experience, location, size of the practice, and more. Below are some sample fees you can expect to pay for professional legal help with different service types. But before we go there, do remember that there are various other costs associated with immigration, including USCIS fees, travel, and insurance.
You should also be aware that there are certain requirements for immigrants coming to the US, with different conditions based on your country of origin.
Fees for short-term or temporary work visas start at around $1000 for the basic H-1B visa. They can rise to as much as $2500 for the L-1 visa for higher-level employees.
Help on temporary visas for family members should cost you no more than several hundred dollars.
Spouse & Fiance Visas
Because this is a standard procedure, the fees are lower than in other areas: budget for around $800.
For simple cases - for example, where you have a sibling or parent already in the US - expect to pay less than $1000. For applications specifically related to employment, that figure could rise to anywhere between $1500 and $3000.
Applying for citizenship (naturalization) is another well-trodden path, so the fees are more reasonable: prices start from around $500.
Deportation is a severe and complicated matter, potentially involving court appearances and much more intensive casework. A ballpark figure? Anywhere between $2000 and $10,000.
Non-Immigration Legal Trouble
If your immigration case involves other legal areas - such as family law, criminal law, or employment law - you could be facing a costly bill, potentially well over $10,000.
There are many good reasons to hire an experienced immigration lawyer, namely because they know the law inside out. They’re up-to-date with all the latest developments, so they can often provide solutions that you might not have considered.
A lawyer could end up saving you time and money by helping you to get your application right the first time. A US Green Card application costs a significant amount, and if you make mistakes, you’ll have to reapply. That means you’ll be paying additional costs - costs that you could’ve avoided if you had verified your initial application with a lawyer.
For the expert advice, professional assistance, and peace of mind they provide, it’s well worth hiring a specialist immigration attorney. Indeed, for many people, the question isn’t whether they can afford an immigration lawyer - but whether they can afford not to hire one.