Attorneys can be very expensive. With hourly rates ranging from $150-500+ per hour, most international students are scared to even schedule an initial consultation with an attorney to help them explore their immigration options. But, when you’re at a crossroads in trying to determine how to remain in legal status, hiring a lawyer might be the way to go. We hope our experience with and without attorneys can help you make the best decision. Please note that we by no means claim to know everything or provide any legal advice. This is simply us sharing our stories.
Getting Your OPT. Neither of us had the need for legal advice when applying for OPT. Our international advisor at school helped us through the whole process and it was pretty seamless for the two of us. There are some situations where legal advice may be needed, though. For example, if you’re starting a new job and your EAD still has not arrived or if you were switching from CPT to OPT and are staying at the same job but there were issues processing your OPT.
Exploring Your Options. When your OPT is about to expire and you’re not quite sure what to do, an appointment with an immigration attorney might open some doors you didn’t even know existed. You might end up on a work visa you didn’t even know you qualified for until you spoke with an attorney. Some attorneys might even be open to a courtesy initial call – especially if you’re being referred by another client.
Pick A Package. We’re both terrified of hidden fees. The good thing about hiring an immigration attorney is that most of them have preset fees for different types of visa applications. That way, you don’t have to worry about the hourly charges – you will know upfront what the cost will be.
Use The Attorney for Review Purposes. If you have the time and discipline to complete the application yourself but want to be certain you didn’t miss something, hire an immigration lawyer to review your application. Their fee will be much lower than if you hired them to handle the whole thing but you will have peace of mind knowing that a professional gave it its stamp of approval. The internet has a lot of information so you will have lots of help! Obviously make sure you triple check your sources to make sure the information you’re using is legit.
Make Your Employer Pay For It. If your current or future employer understands the incredible value you bring to the company and cannot afford to lose you they will be more than willing to pay for your visa. And if they’re willing to pay for your visa they will most likely be willing to pay for the attorney as well. Make sure you always ask and understand the implications of them making this financial contribution. Some employers might require employees to sign contracts so make sure you’re aware of what you’re giving up!
Knowing when you should hire an immigration attorney is a tough decision to make, mainly due to the financial implications. But when your legal status in the US is on the line or you have a complicated case – it is a worthy investment!