United States Immigration: How to Obtain Free Legal Assistance
Obtaining Immigration Legal Assistance
U.S.immigration laws can be complicated, especially with recent changes to existing legislation. Often, people wishing to work and live in the United States or to become naturalized citizens find the legal process a challenge and seek expert assistance. Those applying for immigration or naturalization have the option of being represented by an attorney or other accredited professionals from a recognized organization when filing applications or petitions with the USCIS. However, potential immigrants and citizens need to use caution and good judgment so that they do not become victims of fraud. If you decide you’d like to have a lawyer or accredited representative assist you with your USCIS application or petition, this professional must file Form G-28: Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Representative along with your other documents. Only you or your attorney (or accredited representative) may receive information about your case from the USCIS.
If you cannot afford legal assistance, you may qualify for free or reduced-cost services provided to potential immigrants. Attorneys, immigration lawyers’ associations, state bar associations, and other organizations offer legal assistance to those who need help with immigration issues. If you decide to hire an attorney, he or she should be a member in good standing of a bar association for a U.S. state, possession, territory, or commonwealth or the District of Columbia. The USCIS Web site at www.uscis.gov/legaladvice also provides legal advice. Here, you can find helpful tips for protecting yourself from immigration fraud. Among other precautions, the USCIS recommends that you do the following:
1. Ask for copies of all forms and other documents prepared or submitted on your behalf.
2. Make sure that any professional hired to represent you is legitimate. Ask your attorney for his or her current licensing document and admission number, and contact your State Bar Association to verify this information. Accredited representatives should be members of a recognized organization. Ask to see a copy of the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) official recognition of both the accredited representative and the recognized organization.
3. Report any unlawful actions by an attorney or accredited representative to the USCIS, your State Bar Association, or a State Office of Attorney General. In addition, the USCIS suggests that you take the following precautions to avoid becoming a victim:
4. Do not pay for expensive services offered by non-attorneys.
5. Do not sign any forms or documents containing incorrect information.
6. Do not sign blank forms, petitions, or other documents.
7. Do not pay service fees without obtaining a receipt.
8. Do not sign any paperwork that you do not clearly understand.
Accredited representatives must work for a Recognized Organization in order to be eligible to represent you before USCIS and file a Form G-28. They may be authorized to practice before the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and/or USCIS. The best way to protect yourself is to ask to see a copy of the BIA decision granting official recognition to the Accredited Representative and Recognized Organization. Recognized organizations may only charge nominal fees, if any, for providing services in immigration matters. An accredited representative of a recognized organization should honor your request. You may also check the Recognition Accreditation Roster maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR.)
While other individuals (notary publics and immigration consultants) may assist you by filling in the blanks on pre-printed USCIS forms with information provided by you, these individuals may NOT represent you before USCIS. In addition, notary publics and immigration consultants may only charge nominal fees as regulated by state law. Individuals helping you in this way are required by law to disclose to USCIS their assistance by completing the section at the bottom of a petition or application concerning the “Preparer” of the form.
Finding Low cost or Free Legal Assistance
When help is needed on an immigration issue, it is important that immigrants can turn to a trustworthy and legitimate source of legal assistance. If you are unable to pay for a lawyer, there are some low cost or free assistance options available.
The links below provide resources to help locate low cost or free legal assistance.
1. List of organizations recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to provide legal services to immigrants.
2. List of individuals recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to provide legal services to immigrants.
3. List of recognized free legal service providers for people in immigration proceedings.
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