Finding a local immigration lawyer in Miami, FL that has the ability to effectively handle your specific legal issue can seem like a daunting task. Here are six simple steps to help you get started.
6 Steps To Find An Immigration Lawyer in Miami
Determine your immigration legal needsUsing our explanations below determine your legal needs. Are you looking for a visa, short stay or work? Are you looking for permanent residency? Are you looking for deportation defense?
Use local search directory to find local immigration attorneys in MiamiUse Yelp or Google Search to find local immigration attorneys and create a list of attorneys to research.
Find and read reviews about potential attorneysUse lawyer review sites like Avvo and general review sites like Yelp to learn about their services, people’s experiences with their firm, and services offered.
Vet your potential lawyers using the Florida Bar website
Using Florida’s Bars website look up your potential immigration attorney to determine their standing and if they have any disciplinary actions against them. Visit this page, then click Find a lawyer, then select the name you’ve entered and you’ll be taken to the attorney’s page. Under the name you’ll see the status of the attorney e.g., Member in Good Standing, Disbarred–Not eligible to practice, etc.
Consider the costs of involved with various immigration servicesFlorida law requires that all attorney fees must be reasonable in proportion to the services performed. However, other factors may affect the amount of attorney’s fees charged. Use our checklist below to learn what factors will effect your attorney costs.
Reach out to attorneys after your initial vetting to ask detailed questionsOnce you have built a short list, and collected initial information, start asking specific questions around your required service.
There are many resources available in Miami which have been designed to simplify the process and lead you to the attorney whose specialization best fits your specific legal needs.
Whether you are seeking a legal aid organization which performs pro bono legal services free of charge or a private practitioner, the following information may guide you to the resources necessary to get you on track to finding immigration lawyer that is right for you.
Do you need an immigration attorney in Florida?
Generally, the more complex your legal needs are, the more you will need to hire an attorney. When beginning the process of finding a Miami immigration lawyer, the first step is to understand what exactly your needs are as they relate to your specific immigration issue.
For example, you may be able to successfully apply for a simple visa without attorney representation. However, if you are seeking permanent residency or citizenship, the benefits of hiring an attorney increase accordingly.
How much does an immigration attorney cost in Miami, FL?
If the fee is not a pre-set flat fee, you may expect to pay $100-300 per hour based on the above criteria (at least in part).
The same general rule applies to the cost of attorney representation. Thus, obtaining a short-stay visa will likely cost much less than the costs associated with citizenship. Florida law requires that all attorney fees must be reasonable in proportion to the services performed. However, other factors may affect the amount of attorney’s fees charged such as:
- the time and labor necessary to complete the job
- the novelty and complexity of the legal issues involved
- the lawyer’s level of skill employed to address the issue
- the probability that your legal issue will prevent the lawyer from taking other fee-earning work
- the customary fee charged in the legal industry for the specific type of work
- the amount of potential recovery
- the amount of time available to complete the job
- the results of the case
- the nature and duration of the relationship with your lawyer
- the lawyer’s level of experience and competence.
What should I ask my immigration attorney?
Depending on your specific needs, it is important to ask a prospective immigration lawyer preliminary questions:
- What is their experience with handling your type of immigration issue?
- How long they have been handling your type of issue?
- Will you need to go to court and do they have experience with that?
- What’s your current caseload and will you be able to provide services in a timely manner?
- What is their rate of success?
- What professional certifications or licenses the attorney has relating to your issue (e.g. immigration law certification from a bar association)?
- Is their Florida law license is in good standing?
- How attorney’s fees will be calculated and when the fees will be charged?
- Do they speak a second language? (this can make conversing easier if they speak your native language)
- If your a military servicemen, ask about their experiences with parole in place and expedited citizenship and their general knowledge of immigration law related to U.S. Military service people.
What are common immigration legal services offered by lawyers in Miami?
Immigration lawyers perform a wide range of services relating to many different types of legal issues. Some services may include:
- Assistance with obtaining visas and work authorizations
- Deportation defense
- Obtaining Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) and/or citizenship through naturalization
- Establishing a business in a foreign country
Immigration lawyers may also represent you in court. This is a service that may be particularly important in cases involving deportation defense.
If you are seeking to defend yourself against deportation, it is important to know that your deportation decision will be made at a deportation hearing. As a matter of due process, all prospective deportees are entitled to advance notice of the hearing and to be present at the hearing. Many prospective deportees chose to hire an immigration attorney to defend them against deportation and to be present at the deportation hearing. A prospective deportee may hire any attorney they choose, but an attorney will not be provided to them by the government at no cost in immigration cases. During the deportation hearing, a federal judge will consider relevant facts such as the alien’s reasons for being in the US, whether the immigrant is employed, whether the immigrant has children born in the US, and the immigrant’s criminal history. An immigrant who has been convicted of violent crimes (e.g. robbery) or crimes of dishonesty (e.g. fraud) may be particularly susceptible to deportation sentencing. The basis of a deportation sentence may be criminal or civil in nature.
The prospective deportee is entitled to examine the evidence against him, present his own evidence and witnesses, and cross-examine the government’s witnesses who testify against her. The standard by which the evidence will be weighed is relevance (to the extent that the evidence tends to make a deportation determination more or less necessary). This standard is much lower than that of a conventional civil trial, which is usually evaluated by a preponderance of the evidence (whether the event was more likely than not). The prospective deportee is not entitled to a trial by jury. The ultimate deportation decision will be made by the deportation judge, and the judge is not subject to any statutory limitations when imposing a sentence.
Green Card Application Process
If you are otherwise seeking to remain in the US indefinitely or to become a citizen, you will need to begin by obtaining status as a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR). This type of immigration status is more commonly known as a green card because of the identification card’s traditionally green appearance. Green card holders are entitled to remain in the United States indefinitely with limited rights as compared to those enjoyed by US citizens.
An immigration law known as the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes these policies and designates green card holders as immigrants with a statutorily granted eligibility to become US citizens within the right to permanent residence therein after five years of residing within the US. Green card applications are within the control of a US government agency called the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Accordingly, all LPR applications must be submitted to and approved by the USCIS. LPR Applicants may choose to hire an immigration attorney to represent them throughout the application process to ensure that the process is conducted thoroughly and fairly. Applicants may hire any immigration that they choose. However, an attorney will not be provided to them at no cost for US immigration related matters.
How To Obtain a Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) in Miami, Florida
LPR Eligibility can based on several predetermined categories. Accordingly, LPRs may be granted if the applicant has family that is lawfully residing in the US. The specific types of family which qualify for this category are listed as immediate relatives of a US citizen (spouse of a US citizen, unmarried child under the age of 21 of a US citizen, parent of a US citizen who is at least 21 years old). LPRs may also be granted for a fiancé (person who expressly intends to marry) a US citizen or the children thereof. This is also the case for a person who was married to a US citizen at the time that their spouse deceased.
Employment may also provide an adequate basis for the granting of an LPR. These types of LPR applicants are designated as immigrant workers and they are ranked in terms of first, second, or third preference based on which type of professional abilities they offer. First preference is given to applicants who,“[h]ave extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or [a]re an outstanding professor or researcher, or [a]re a multinational or executive who meets certain criteria.” Second preference immigrant workers are listed as being, “…a member of a profession that requires an advanced degree, or hav[ing] exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or seeking a national interest waiver.”
Third preference workers are defined as “skilled worker[s](meaning your job requires a minimum of two years training or work experience), or [a] professional (meaning that your job requires at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a foreign equivalent and you are a member of the profession, or [a]n unskilled worker (meaning you will perform unskilled labor requiring less than two years of training or experience.” LPR applications may also be granted to immigrant investors who, “[h]ave invested or are actively in the process of investing at least $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise in the U.S. which will create full time positions for at least 10 qualifying employees.” These categories are highly fact-intensive and individual applications based on employment will be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Other categories of LPR eligibility include special immigrants (religious workers, abused juveniles, Afghan or Iraqi nationals, international broadcasters, employees and family members of international organizations), those who have been previously granted status as an asylee or refugee at least one year ago, victims of human trafficking and crime, and victims of abuse. There also exists a limited amount of other highly specific categories upon which LPR status may be granted.
Applicants may be determined ineligible upon a finding that the applicant has committed certain types of crimes. This particularly true in cases involving violent crimes and aggravated felonies (usually involving the use of a lethal weapon, e.g. robbery involving the use of a firearm). Each of the types of LPR applications mentioned above may also require the filing of an immigrant petition (a USCIS form to be completed by the US employer which certifies that they are unable to find a US citizen to perform the job being offered to the applicant) at the same time that the LPR application is submitted along with the applicable filing fees. This requirement is known as concurrent filing.
Upon a determination of eligibility, applicants who are present in the United States at the time of application for LPR status may begin the process by undergoing what is called an adjustment of status. Adjustment of status allows the applicant to obtain LPR status without returning to their country of origin. This process involves several steps which may or may not involve an interview and the presentation of evidence supporting the application to adjust before receiving a decision. For applicants who are not present within the US or are otherwise not eligible to adjust status at the time of application, a procedure known as consular processing must be utilized. Consular processing requires that the applicant be the beneficiary of an approved immigrant petition and there is an immigrant visa number available to be assigned to the applicant.
Generally, to proceed to apply for LPR status, there must be a visa immediately available to the applicant. The waiting period (if any) for a visa will depend on which type of visa the applicant is seeking to attain. This is because certain types of categories of visa are readily available at all times, while other types may come available less frequently. Thus, the processing of an LPR may take 7 to 33 months or longer depending on current demand. Once an immigrant has applied for or obtained a green card, their right to travel outside the US may be restricted. The immigrant seeking to travel internationally may apply for several types of authorizations known as travel documents. The four main types of travel documents are advance parole, refugee travel, re-entry permit, and carrier documentation. Exceptions may also be made for emergencies.
The majority of LPR applicants will be required to undergo a medical examination depending on the type of immigration benefit the applicant is seeking. The stated purpose of the exams is, “…to protect the health of the United States population.” Such exams are conducted by doctors who have been approved by the USCIS (also known as civil surgeons). Applicants will be screened for certain types of diseases of public health significance, physical or mental disorders associated with harmful behavior, drug abuse or addiction, vaccine administration, and various other medical conditions which may or may not disqualify the applicant from LPR eligibility.
If the applicant intends to work or earn money via employment within the US, their employer must sign a contract which pledges its intent to provide financial support to the immigrant applicant to sustain the applicant while in the US. This employer is referred to as a sponsor in these types of situations. Most often, the sponsor is the party who files the immigrant petition on behalf of the applicant.
Such a promise is called an affidavit of support and it is required to be submitted to the USCIS in all cases which involve immigrant employment within the US. Additionally, LPR applicants must demonstrate that they are unlikely to become dependent on public assistance to sustain themselves while living in the US. This process is known as a public charge, and applicants who are determined to have a strong likelihood of requiring public assistance may be determined to be ineligible for LPR status. For more information regarding the green card application process, visit these official websites:
Official Immigration Websites
However, if you are seeking a visa, the following represent some of the type of visas offered by the USCIS:
an Employer’s Application for an Immigrant Visa and Proof of Ability to Pay.
an employment-based, non-immigrant visa for temporary workers.
K1 (Fiancé) Visa
a visa issued to the fiancé or fiancée (imminent spouse) of a United States citizen to enter the United States
A treaty investor visa is a non-immigrant visa reserved for foreign entrepreneurs of countries that have a Treaty of Trade and Commerce with the United States.
The L1 visa is an intra-company transfer US visa. It allows a US company to transfer a key employee from one of its offices in another country into the United States.
The EB-5 visa provides a method for eligible immigrant investors to become green card holders by investing $500,000 or $900,000 after November 21, 2019 to finance a business in the United States that will employ at least 10 American workers.
An Immigration waiver is a pardon for a specific types of immigration violations.
Note: Immigrant visas (IV) are issued to persons seeking to reside permanently in the U.S. Non-immigrant visas (NIV) are issued to persons with permanent residence outside the United States and wish to be in the U.S. temporarily for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study, for example.
Helpful Immigration-Related Organizations in Miami
As previously mentioned, there are many resources available to aid you in your search for the right immigration attorney. For instance, the Florida Bar maintains an index of all attorneys licensed to practice law in Florida on their website: https://www.floridabar.org/directories/find-mbr/
This index allows you to search for an attorney based on certain criteria such as geographic location, types of law practiced, languages spoken, and services offered. Also, the following organizations and their contact information may be useful when looking to resolve your immigration matter:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
909 SE 1st Ave, Miami, FL 33131
CABA Pro Bono
2400 S Dixie Hwy, Miami, FL 33133
Dade Legal Aid
123 NW 1st Ave, Miami, FL 33128
Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc
4343 W Flagler St #100, Miami, FL 33134
Florida Immigrant Coalition
2800 Biscayne Blvd #200, Miami, FL 33137
CASA Immigration and Education Services
10300 SW 72nd St #387, Miami, FL 33173
American Friends Immigrant Services
1175 NE 125th St #417, North Miami, FL 33161