The city of Austin, Texas has been experiencing major growth in recent years. Being that it is situated very close to the US-Mexico border, Austin experiences a rate of immigration which is disproportionately higher than many other cities in the United States. Every day, many people and families cross the Southern border of the United States in search of a better life by way of Austin. To meet the demand for legal immigration, many immigration attorneys have established their legal practices in Austin. Having so many attorneys to choose from can be confusing. Fortunately, this guide is designed to help lead you to the attorney whose specialization best fits your specific legal needs.
Distinctive Immigration Laws in Austin
It is important to be aware that the State of Texas has enacted what is known as a “show me your papers” law. This law enables state and local law enforcement to check the immigration status of persons which have been detained or arrested regardless of whether the purpose of the encounter was unrelated to immigration or prior criminal history. For example, a law enforcement officer is legally permitted to check the immigration status of someone they detain for shoplifting. In addition to this, Texas has also passed laws which require local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities as it relates to reporting illegal immigration. The city of Austin has since unsuccessfully attempted to challenge some of these policies, but they remain enforceable at the state level.
Hiring an Immigration Attorney in Austin, Texas
When searching for an immigration lawyer, you should first be clear as to what your legal needs are. This knowledge may help you to narrow your search to attorneys which handle your specific type of legal issue. For example, if you are facing deportation, you may want to hire an attorney who specializes in this type of legal matter, as opposed to an attorney or law firm whose primary focus is assisting immigrants with starting foreign businesses or some other unrelated immigration issue.
Understanding your legal needs can also help guide you to an attorney whose fees fit your budget. For example, if you only need help filing a request for a short-stay visa, it may not be necessary to hire a lawyer who mainly handles deportation defense cases in court for $400 per hour. Texas law requires that all attorney fees must be reasonable in proportion to the services performed. Moreover, there are several other factors which limit the amount of attorney’s fees that your lawyer may charge 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 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.
If the fee is not a predetermined fixed fee which is to be paid upfront to handle the entire legal matter, you may expect to pay $100-500 per hour based on your needs (also known as the scope of the representation) and the above criteria (at least in part). Notably, attorneys’ fees tend be higher if the representation involves the lawyer representing you in court.
Before deciding which attorney to hire, it is important to ask a prospective immigration lawyer questions about their background. Most importantly, you will want to learn about his or her experience with handling your type of immigration issue. For example, you may want to ask how long they have been handling your type of issue and at what rate of success, what professional certifications or licenses the attorney has relating to your issue (e.g. immigration law certification from a bar association), whether their Texas law license is in good standing, how attorney’s fees will be calculated, and when the fees will be charged. Any agreements relating to the attorney’s representation must be in writing and explained to you before you sign. You should also be provided with a copy after signing. If you have concerns relating to the attorney’s disciplinary history, the State Bar of Texas maintains a list of recent disciplinary actions taken against all attorneys licensed to practice law in the state. You may access and review that list here:
Legal Services Offered by Austin Immigration Lawyers
Immigration lawyers perform a wide range of services relating to many different types of immigration issues. Some examples of these services may include:
- visas and work authorizations
- family based immigration
- DACA defense
- habeas corpus petitions
- deportation defense
- green cards and citizenship
- establishing a business in Austin, Texas
- representing you in court (This is a service that may be particularly important in cases involving deportation defense).
- lawful permanent resident (LPR)
- criminal defense
If you are looking to come to the United States for work-related reasons, you may want to speak with an attorney who specializes in assisting clients with obtaining the following types of work authorization visas:
The following represent some of the type of visas offered by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services:
- I-140 Visa: Employer’s Application for an Immigrant Visa and Proof of Ability to Pay.
- H1B Visa: 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
- E2 Visa: 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.
- L1 Visa: 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.
- EB5 Visa: 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.
- Immigration Waiver: 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. Nonimmigrant visas (NIV) are issued to persons with a 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 Law Related Organizations in Austin, Texas
There are also official resources available in Austin which may help guide you to the right attorney. For instance, the State Bar of Texas maintains an index of all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas on their website, which can be accessed here:
This index allows you to search for an attorney based on certain criteria, such as the location of their offices. Also, the following organizations and their contact information may be useful when looking to resolve your immigration matter:
San Antonio Immigration Court
800 Dolorosa Suite 300
San Antonio, TX 78207
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (San Antonio Office)
San Antonio, TX 78217
Austin Bar Association
816 Congress Ave. #700
Austin, TX 78701
State Bar of Texas
1414 Colorado Street
Austin, TX 78701
Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid
Austin, TX 78751
Texas Civil Rights Project
1405 Montopolis Dr.
Austin, TX 78741