This website is mainly focused on those petitioners interested on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) green card preparation for their EB-1A application. However, it is important to put all options on the table, including the possibility of hiring an immigration attorney. If you are interested on this option, you should also be prepared to make the best choice because it is a very expensive investment.
Hiring of immigration lawyers is not mandatory for this green card category in which you can self petition, but it is still an option many consider. In this blog post I will go over the services that an immigration attorney may include and those that are typically not offered. We’ll also discuss the cost of lawyer fees, and how to identify good attorney offices. Finally, we will cover alternatives to using legal services for your green card petition if you do not want to hire a lawyer or you simply can´t afford one.
EB-1A: a green card category in which you can self petition
Since this Extraordinary Ability EB-1 green card does not require a job offer, you do not need to have a company sponsoring your petition. This means you can also choose not to use the services of a legal counsel, and you can directly represent yourself before USCIS.
Essentially, this also means you will cut down the timeline because you do not need to wait to obtain a labor certification before filing the I-140 petition. In EB-1A, you can start the pocess by directly filing the I-140 with a petition package that addresses the requirements for this green card category. In this other blog post I discussed in detail what those requirements are, and here I explained how your petition cover letter helps you establishing you fulfill those requirements.
Working with immigration lawyers: services included
When considering using attorneys to file our EB-1 petition, it is important to understand what services are usually included and which ones are often left out of the service agreement. Keep in mind that this will depend on which office you choose to work with, and make sure you understand what services they include before you sign and pay them their fees.
Services that are often included
- Feedback on petitioner’s profile. This is often offered as a free service by many legal offices to attract the attention of green card petitioners. In this consultantion call, the immigration attorneys review your CV and ask you questions to understand if you can qualify for the EB-1 green card.
- Preparation of cover letter. The cover letter is one of the documents that are part of the I-140 petition. This is the letter that summarizes all the documentation submitted to USCIS to demonstrate you meet all the requirements to obtain the permanent residency. For example, for EB-1A, this includes establishing how you are a person of extraordinary ability. All lawyers should include drafting the cover letter as part of their services.
- Response to questions you may have. We all have questions during the green card process and a unique advantage of hiring attorneys is to have a legal team to whom you can direct all your doubts and concernts. Make sure they will respond your emails in a timely manner before hiring them!
- Help design the strategy for your case. As part of preparing your I-140 package and your cover letter, they will play an important role in deciding how to argue your case to ensure your qualifications and professional achievements shine and the USCIS officer is impressed with your credentials. The immigrations lawyers should be very well versed in putting together winning strategies for EB-1.
- Assembling the I-140 petition package. Although you will have to provide the lawyers with all the documentation required to substatiate your credentials, they are often responsible for structuring the petition package and physically assembling the final file to be submitted to USCIS. Typically, they will also mail the package and represent you before this government agency.
Services that are sometimes included by attorneys
- Preparation of recommendation letters. Some lawyers include drafting the letters and some may only help select the recommenders and will only provide templates for you to draft the letters. This is an area where I have observed a lot of variability across legal offices. If you want to know more about EB-1A recommendation letters you can read this other post.
- Support during Request for Evidence (RFE). Most lawyers will charge extra if you receive an RFE and want to respond to it. In my view this is abusive, since RFEs are often not the petitioner’s fault. It is important to udnerstand if they include or not RFE response as part of the fees they charge, and if not, how much extra it will cost you if you want to retain their services.
Services that are most likely not included
- Preparation of business plans. Typically, legal fees will not include preparation of business plans or professional plans. In some cases, the immigration lawyer will recommend third party offices if you want to hire someone to write your plan, or they may outsource this work to someone else for additional payments.
What you still need to do even if you have a lawyer
Many petitioners think they can sit back and relax if they hire a lawyer, partially because they think that after paying so much money (we will get to that in a moment) their effort should be minimized. Unfortunately, that is far from true. Having a lawyer may have advantages but it does not eliminate your work. There is a lot of writing you will still need to do!
- Provide the lawyer with all the information they need. The lawyer is not an expert in you or your field, so you need to give them all the information about your background, including:
- Comprehensive CV. You should re-write your CV or resume to make it complete so it reflects all your achievements and credentials.
- Professional achievements. You will need to describe all the relevant projects you worked on and the significance of the outcomes. Everything will need to be explained in laymans terms, avoiding technical jargon, so the legal team can understand it all and craft the best petition for you.
- List of awards
- Memberships and the requirements needed to be part of those associations
- Publications and citations you have, and the significance of each one of them. Sometimes they will want to know about who cited your work and with what purpose, to demonstrate the relevance of your work.
- Names of your proposed recommenders and their background information, so they can at the very least help your decide who you should tap for recommendation letters.
- Depending on the lawyer you choose, you may need to draft the recommendation letters too! Some lawyers may provide templates to guide you, some of them will review and edit your drafts. In some cases they will go all the way and provide drafts for you. This variability in what different offices offer makes it really important for you to understand what is included before signing any agreement!
Want to have a sample EB-1A petition?
Download the full EB-1A application for I-140, which includes the cover letter and all of the exhibits, so you can understand how to craft your own petition!
Cost of immigration lawyers for EB-1A
The price of immigration attorneys is extremely variable. In general, attorneys are quite expensive so if you are interested in this route, be prepared to spend thousands of dollars. In my experience, I have seen legal fees ranging from 4,000 to as high as 20,000 US dollars!
I have also understood that more expensive does not equal better in this world of immigration lawyers. I have seen cases of petitioners that hired really expensive lawyers that did an awful job, and there are very reputable offices (such as Chen Immigration) who craft high quality petitions for less than 10,000 dollars.
Some may include an Approval or Refund scheme, such as the aforementioned Chen / North America Immigration Law Group. Note: I am not associated in any way to this law firm, I receive no payment for this mention, and I have not personally used them. Do you due diligence before hiring a lawyer.
How to find the right lawyers for your EB-1A case
Ask the lawyers the right questions
The first thing to do is to ask smart questions to understand if that specific attorney is good at filing EB-1 cases. In order to think and formulate the right questions, you should first educate yourself on this green card category to probe them on key areas. Examples of questions to ask are:
- How many cases have your filed on this category?
- How quickly do you respond to questions from clients?
- What is the typical timeline for the EB-1A process if I hire you? How long will it take you to prepare each part of the petition?
- Is there a time of the year when you are busy with other jobs and you will get distracted? (example: H-1B season)
- What is the fee structure and services included?
- Will I pay you in one go, monthly, or half now and half later?
- Do you have an approval or refund option?
- Is RFE assistance included?
- Are these fees for the I-140 filing only or they also include Adjustment of Status / Consular Processing help too?
- Is drafting of recommendation letters included?
Find testimonials to verify the lawyers are effective
Before paying large sums of money for this legal service, it is important to validate the lawyer’s claims by talking with current or past costumers. The best way is not to rely on the testimonials on their website, but to find your own references. You can do so by asking in social media communities, such as Facebook groups, Whatsapp or Telegram chats, Reddit, etc.
This is to avoid relying too much on the lawyer’s salesmen mode, which may lead them to overpromise only to underdeliver once you already paid them a lot of money.
I am telling you all this because I have heard a lot of horror stories of people getting an extremely poor service after paying thousands of dollars. Avoid being scammed by finding people that will tell you all about their real experiences so you avoid making a very expensive mistake.
Ready to start your EB-1A petition?
Save thousands of dollars on immigration attorneys by crafting your own documents. In this course I teach you all the requirements, how to meet them, and how to prepare everything for your I-140 application. It includes all the downloadable materials from my website so they can serve as reference!
Alternatives to using lawyers for your EB-1A petition
1. Do It Yourself, entirely
This website is esecifically designed to help those of you who want to stay away from lawyers and file an EB-1 petition without spending thousands on attorney fees. And it is possible. However, you need to be motivated to spend the time and the effort to take it to the finish line.
If you are interested on a DIY petition, these are my recommendations for resources to use:
- USCIS website. Always go to the official site that the agency publishes first. This is because you will get the information first hand from an official source and it will be up to date. For EB1A I recommend the page for I-140 form, this site on EB1 and this part of the Policy Manual.
- Dive into YouTube channels, such as my own, Oscar’s Green Card. There are many channels that will help you understand the EB-1A green card category so you can get the best tools for your petition.
- Get further information on specialized website, such as this one, EB1greencard.info. Here you can not only find tons of free information about the EB-1 process, but you can also download a sampe petition that you can use as a model to craft your own.
2. Get help from consultants to put together your petition
Consultants based inside or outside the United States are a more affordable option compared to lawyers. However, like for attorneys, there may be great consultants and awful ones. Make sure to follow the same guidelines you would use to probe an attorney. This way you can minimize the chances of getting scammed!
The reality is that today the green card industry is booming and there are many service providers that can help you prepare your I-140 application. Unlike lawyers, they will not represent you before USCIS, and you will be the one mailing the petitition package. But they can still assist you in writing the cover letter, answering questions about forms, preparing recommendation letters, etc.
3. Do-It-Yourself but hire a lawyer or consultant on hourly basis
If you decide to prepare your own I-140 petition you can still leverage the expertise from attorneys or consultants on a hourly basis. This is a good economic compromise because you can get a lot of answers in one hour and save thousands of dollars compared to full preparation service fees.
You can also find out if they can take a quick look at your cover letter or recommendation letter drafts to give you their overall impression and tips on how to improve them. Of course, this will not be a through review, but it can still be helpful. I do provide this option on my one hour calls, so others may do that too if you ask.
4. Do-It-Yourself but hire someone to do a deep review
Consultants are now also offering review services. For those DIY applicants this can be a great option. It will be less expensive than hiring someone to prepare the full case, and it will give them the confidence of knowing that someone skilled at green card petitions looked over the package before mailing it to USCIS.
Your path to an EB1A green card will be shaped by your personal circumstances, resources, and confidence in navigating legal procedures. Whether you choose to hire an immigration attorney, adopt a DIY approach, or blend both strategies, the key is to stay informed, diligent, and proactive.
While legal representation offers expertise and convenience, it comes with substantial costs and does not eliminate the need for your involvement. A DIY approach saves on costs and offers a deeper understanding of the process but demands significant time and effort.
Exploring middle-ground options, like hiring consultants or attorneys on an hourly basis, can also be beneficial. Regardless of your chosen path, remember that securing your EB-1A green card is a feasible goal with the right preparation and resources.