Los Angeles is often referred to as the melting pot of cultures and dreams within the Golden State. It’s a popular area of the United States, but many of its residents find themselves navigating the complexities of immigration law to make LA their permanent home. With so much at stake, many begin to wonder who can better protect their rights: a Los Angeles immigration lawyer or an immigration consultant.
Understanding the key differences between immigration lawyers and consultants can help you make a more informed decision about which of these professionals can most effectively help you.
These legal professionals have undergone rigorous legal training to earn their Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school. It’s tangible evidence of their qualification to understand and interpret the law.
After their formal education, these individuals must successfully pass the bar exam in California to practice law in the state. Once they receive this certification, they officially have the authority to represent clients in the courtroom to ensure that their rights and interests are safe.
The scope of work for these types of professionals includes visa applications, citizenship and asylum requests, and defending clients in deportation cases. With their extensive training and knowledge in this space, immigration lawyers are trusted to stay on top of ever-changing immigration laws and regulations. This can assure their clients that they are operating under the most recent laws of the land.
An immigration consultant is someone who has a more administrative role in legal immigration matters, rather than practicing law. Because these individuals do not have the education or certification legally required to interpret immigration law, it is illegal for them to give any type of formal legal advice. Instead, these individuals assist with:
Their function is purely transactional, which can offer a ton of value to the process. However, they should not be mistaken as someone who can double as an immigration attorney.
The key differences between these two professionals relate to their ethics and regulatory oversight.
An immigration lawyer is bound to professional ethics and different accountability structures from the state bar. If there are any proven instances of misconduct or malpractice, it will result in severe penalties that could eventually end up removing someone’s license to practice law.
For immigration consultants, they are not under this same level of scrutiny. There is no regulatory body governing their conduct. Because of this, many immigrants have unfortunately fallen victim to people who unethically present themselves as consultants. This has caused people to take misleading advice or pay extra for unnecessary services.
While both professionals can add value to the immigration process, start with an initial consultation with an immigration attorney. Share the details of what you need, and see how much they are able to handle. They can tell if you need an immigration consultant and how the two could work together, if necessary, to boost your chances of building a successful immigration case.
A: Legitimate immigration consultants should be able to show that they are registered with the Secretary of State in California and have obtained a valid business license. You will want to ask for this information before hiring them for any services, even the most minor of requests.
Once you have validated their credentials, obtain a written contract with details on their services. If there is any indication in this contract that they want to offer legal advice, it is a strong indicator that they are acting in bad faith. Immigration consultants do not have the authority to offer legal advice, and a legitimate consultant knows this.
A: Some people find that seeking referrals from their friends or family who have had success with an immigration consultant is the surest way to find a good consultant. If there is no one in your social circle who has leveraged these types of services, checking out online reviews and testimonials can be an effective alternative option.
Once that is complete, ensure that they are registered to offer services in California and then schedule a face-to-face meeting to inquire for more information. Always trust your instincts; if something seems off, report your suspicions to ensure that you are contracting legal work that offers value to your immigration case.
A: If you feel that your needs are strictly administrative, such as help filling out paperwork, then you are welcome to only hire an immigration consultant. While it may seem like a cost-effective choice, not having official legal counsel could jeopardize your case.
For example, your request could be delayed or denied due to an oversight that you made independently, but someone with legal training would have been able to catch it. In general, it is advised that you either work with both professionals or just an attorney.
A: No, immigration consultants do not have any legal authority to represent someone physically in court or anywhere in a legal proceeding. Any consultant who claims to have this ability is not being genuine about what they can legally offer.
The only professional who can represent you in court is a licensed immigration attorney. They have the necessary education, training, and experience to do so. They are also held accountable by governing bodies, ensuring that they can be held accountable if there are any ethical violations. This helps maximize the odds of a client receiving quality legal services that they can depend on in Los Angeles.
If you are seeking immigration services, contact the experienced immigration law attorneys at U.S. Law Center today. Our reputable law firm has been supporting immigrants for years, and we have the full legal authority needed to represent you throughout your legal proceedings.