Immigration Process in the United States

The following is information you should know regarding the immigration process in the United States. For more information on visas in the United States or your immigration status call and schedule a consultation with a DC immigration lawyer today.

Executive Actions

Executive actions are basically when the President issues some sort of rule that changes the way that immigration laws are processed or interpreted by the agencies that are executing them. The President does not have authority to change the laws or make new laws without going through the legislative process. So, it’s really a falsehood when people say that President Obama, for instance, is granting “amnesty” to people, as he can’t do that without Congress’ approval. He can’t change the laws, and he can’t create a status that isn’t already in an existing law. With that said, however, what he can do is change the way that the laws are enforced or change the way that the laws are interpreted by the agencies that execute them.

Therefore, even though a President can’t actually make new laws himself, executive actions can still have really profound impact on individuals. One example is the creation of DACA, which basically protected a large class of people who had arrived here as kids from being deported.  He didn’t give them any kind of official status like green cards or citizenship, but he allowed them to be placed into “deferred action” status, meaning the government – specifically DHS attorneys and ICE officials – were recognizing that these people were here without legal status but were “deferring” taking any action on removing them.  So, DACA was essentially a directive issued by the President that changed the way DHS officials executed their authority, moving this class of people to the bottom of the list of enforcement priorities.

Do People Have The Right To an Immigration Lawyer?

People have a right to an immigration lawyer, but they do not have a right to a free immigration lawyer provided by the government like they do in criminal court. So, you do have a right to counsel if you want to retain someone, but you’ve got to find pro bono representation or finance it yourself.

How Is This Different From Criminal Cases?

In criminal cases you have the right to an attorney even if you can’t afford it, so the government will provide one for you. That’s not true in immigration law, where there’s no right to appointed counsel.

Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Immigration Cases

The biggest mistake to avoid in immigration cases really depends on what type of case you have. It’s impossible to answer that question in one broad answer because every type of application process or every type of defense from removal will have different priorities.

However, one thing which is common to every type of immigration application is that you really need to understand – thoroughly understand – the law and the potential implications and qualifications for what you’re going to be applying for or defending yourself against. In most cases if there’s any kind of complexity with your case, even if it’s not in front of the immigration court yet, it’s important to consult with an attorney before moving forward.

Can I Contact Your Office For an Attorney If I Do Not Speak English?

Yes, absolutely. A large percentage of my clients speak only Spanish and I speak Spanish. We also have other language capabilities within our office as well for French speakers.

Can I Call On Behalf of a Family Member?

Absolutely. I work with people who have familial translators often. Sometimes we may have to hire a translator if it’s an exceedingly complicated case, but generally a family member will be fine for consultations between the client and the attorney. If you’re in immigration court, then one thing the government is responsible for providing for you at no cost is a translator, so you do not have to pay for that and you are not responsible for providing your own translator if you’re in front of the immigration court.

Steps to Maintain a Good Immigration Status

The steps that you need to take in order to maintain your immigration status in the U.S. completely depends on the type of status that you’re in. For some types of immigration statuses you don’t need to do anything except not commit crimes and not abandon your residency in the U.S. For other immigration statuses you may have to renew your status every so often or change status after your allotted period in another status expires. So, it completely depends on what type of status you’re in.