Getting professional help about visa/immigration issues

I’m a foreigner currently on exchange visa that expires in a little less than a year, and the situation is complex enough that I need some professional advice. Is it appropriate to just call up a lawyer, make an appointment and ask for advice? Or are there better ways to seek help? I do already have the name of a lawyer who specializes in immigration.

If I do go to a lawyer, it’ll be the first time I step into a lawyer’s office and I have absolutely no idea what to expect. What kind of fees should I expect to pay, and what kind of obligations does he have to me, and me to him?

Are you in the United States? If so, I would recommend seeing the lawyer, and be upfront about the fact that you need to know what you’re getting into in terms of his fee and other expenses.

If you have a job, that’s a good start. From there, it can depend on what country you’re from. Posting more specifics about your situation will get you more detailed responses. :slight_smile:

Yes, I’m in the US.

I’m not seeking visa advice here - I have in the past and gotten good advice but right now, I guess I’m mostly interested in knowing what to expect when I call and visit a lawyer. Whether there’s anything I should ask, etc.

I’m not an immigration lawyer, but as a lawyer here’s what I suggest.

First call the lawyer’s office. I would explain to whoever answers the phone that pretty much what you started your post with (“I’m a foreigner currently on exchange visa that expires in a little less than a year, and the situation is complex enough that I need some professional advice”), that Mr/Ms Lawyer was recommended by Ms. Whomever, and you’d like to speak to Mr/Ms Lawyer to see if he/she could help. Trust me, lawyers love to get calls about potential new business, and will usually be happy to respond.

Depending, the lawyer may want to have a brief phone conversation and/or have you in for a consultation. Many (though not all) lawyers don’t charge for an initial consultation, which is usually more of a meeting for the lawyer to understand the issue, see if he/she can help, and convince the client to hire him/her. At the initial consultation, you should discuss fees and billing. In many states (including New York, where I practice) lawyers are required to give new clients a written statement describing what they are being retained for and how they will charge. I will ask my clients to sign a copy of my retainer letter agreeing to its terms.

As for how much it will cost, I have no idea, but you should discuss it with the lawyer in advance. Often, with a complex problem, the lawyer won’t know in advance, but should be able to give you a good idea.

The obligations of a lawyer to a client is a highly complex area of legal ethics. However, the most significant obligations are that a lawyer must represent a client zealously (within the bounds of the law), in the client’s interest and without conflicts of interest, and that the lawyer is bound to keep the client’s communications seeking legal services confidential (with limited exceptions in some states such as to prevent a crime from being committed in the future).

Good luck.

I used to be a partner in a tech company who did a lot of H1B visas for our Russian programmers. A good immigration lawyer is a godsend and ours was great. He would tell us exactly what the issues were and would tell us what it would cost and what our chances of success were. His initial consultation was free and seemed to have a pretty broad background on all types of immigration issues. His fees seemed quite reasonable to me. This is coming from a guy with a deep distrust of lawyers.