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Often we are asked this question.
The typical scenario runs like this: Someone comes into our office or calls us and describes their situation. It could be a Visa refusal or they want to sponsor their mother from overseas, or apply for a work permit. After listening to their story, we will then try to spot any legal issues that may be relevant to their case and provide some general guidance as to what may be involved in resolving their problem. These consultations are not designed to provide specific legal advice but rather to give people an idea about what is involved in their situation.
After listening to my general overview, the person will usually the ask two follow up questions: 1. How long will it take? and 2. How much will it cost? Both perfectly reasonable questions. The answer to the first, will of course depend on the nature of the case. Some Visa applications take a number of months and some number of days. The answer to the second will of course vary depending on the nature and complexity of the case.
At this point, the person hopefully has a solid understanding of their situation and what is involved in resolving it. And now for the “biggy” . The question that often is asked with some fear and trepidation: “But Sir do I really need an immigration lawyer”?, they say.
The answer to this question is tricker than you would think and you may be surprised what I always say in response.
My reply is a flat…… “No”.
“No, you do not need a lawyer for your immigration matter”, I say. I love watching their shocked faces. I let a few second pass to absorb the news. The person, looking like a deer in headlights, will then often and sheepishly ask “Well, why not?. I don’t need a lawyer?” To which my reply is always: “Sir or Madam, your case can be filed, argued and processed without a lawyer or representative and therefore you don’t need an immigration lawyer”. There are no rules or regulations requiring people to have representatives handle their Immigration and Visa applications. Any application can be filed or a hearing can he conducted without legal counsel.
I then go on to tell them the following, often to their relief: “Athough you don’t need a lawyer, you definitely should have one. Immigration law is very complex and there are many aspects to a case that require professional assistance despite what you may read or see online. I then add that “many cases we handle are refused applications or failed hearings and appeals from people without lawyers. Such cases are much harder to resolve and more costly. It is always better to get it right the first time. Therefore there is a big difference between needing a lawyer and should you have one.”
The person is back to looking shocked again. Trying to explain the proper role of a lawyer in immigration matters is not easy. For some reason I can’t figure out, people have this perception that immigration applications are just about filling out some forms, paying a fee and sending them in. If it were only that simple!
The meeting is now coming to a close and I am prepared for the final and, in the minds of many, the most important inquiry: “But if I hire an immigration lawyer, are there guarantees that my case will be successful?” And once again, my answer is, you guessed it, a flat……”No”.
“No, there are no guarantees when it comes to immigration and visa matters”, I reply. Like in life, any request you make for any benefit whether it’s a loan from a bank or a raise at work, can be denied. Immigration law is no exception. Most people are receptive to this explanation as they can see how life and immigration law have something in common.
But some dig in their heels, look at me with suspicion and contempt and ask: “If there are no guarantees, then why hire an immigration lawyer?” Prepared for this one, I simply say “Because we can help you. We can vastly improve the chances that your case will succeed. We can make sure that your file is treated properly by the authorities and if it isn’t we will litigate if need be. Our role is to be your representative for your case. You pay us to do just that: help you with your case. And remember, it is the government who pays an immigration officer to decide the outcome of your case, not you, not me”
A bond of understanding slowly forms between us. Sometimes it’s acknowledged by a smile. I’m feeling good that I have shed some light on the world of immigration law for this person. And I hope that the person I have enlightened regardless of whether we will be retained, feels good too.
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