immigration lawyer

5 Tasks Immigration Lawyers Do

immigration lawyerImmigration lawyers, like all lawyers, have been to law school and found a practice area that they are interested in and care about. Over 40 million people who were born outside the United States live within the United States and immigration lawyers serve many of them. But how many of us know what immigration lawyers do on a daily basis? When we hear the word “lawyer,” most of us think of courtrooms, judges, and juries. While many immigration lawyers do spend time in court, immigration law is much broader than that. Here are five tasks immigration lawyers do on a daily basis:


The first step in representing a client is listening to the client’s problem. The United States has about 185 different types of non-immigrant and immigrant visas. Each of these visas varies in its requirements and applicability. An immigration lawyer must listen to the client’s story, whether that client is the immigrant, a family member of the immigrant, or the employer of the immigrant. Only after listening to the story and gathering all the relevant facts, can the immigration attorney narrow down the options for taking action based on the client’s circumstances, needs, and goals.

Counsel and Advise

On television and in the movies, we often hear judges refer to a lawyer as “counselor.” The reason lawyers are called “counselors” is that lawyers do not make decisions for their clients. Rather, lawyers provide the client with legal counsel and advice and the client makes the decisions about how to handle the client’s case. For example, a client’s situation could make him or her eligible for several different types of visas. Once the lawyer listens to the facts of the client’s case, a lawyer can advise the client of their options under the immigration laws so that the client can decide how the case should proceed.

File Petitions and Applications

Immigration attorneys, like tax attorneys or patent attorneys, deal primarily with an agency of the United States government. This means that instead of initiating and resolving cases in a federal district court in front of a federal district judge, many immigration cases are initiated by filing a petition or application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (or USCIS). Many cases are resolved entirely within the agency and never require an appearance in immigration court. In these administrative cases, the attorney’s job is to prepare a petition or application for the client, providing the facts in such a way as to present the best possible case for getting the petition or application approved.

Shepherd Petitions and Applications

Petitions and applications take time for the USCIS to process. During this time, the lawyer serves at the point of contact in the event that the agency has additional questions or requires additional information. When an application is approved, the lawyer prepares the client for any additional steps that are required to remain in compliance with immigration law. Moreover, a lawyer can counsel and advise the client about the further steps that can be taken to convert the client’s status from, for example, permanent resident to U.S. citizen. Conversely, in the event that a petition or application is denied, the lawyer counsels and advises the client on the options for dealing with the denial.

Appear in Court

In addition to their administrative duties, immigration lawyers can also appear in court. In certain circumstances, a case cannot be resolved through the USCIS. Rather, the case requires an appearance in immigration court or federal district court. A typical case in immigration court begins with a “Notice to Appear” (or NTA) which gives the reason for the notice as well as the date and time of the scheduled appearance. Removal proceedings, and appeals from removal orders, are the most common reason immigration lawyers appear in immigration court. However, there are other reasons, such as the denial of an asylum claim, that may require a court appearance.

In sum, immigration lawyers have experience in navigating the U.S. immigration system from the filing requirements of 185 different types of visas to the process for fighting deportation in a removal proceeding. It all begins with the lawyer simply listening to the client’s needs and goals.