The following article is designed to shed light on the troubling issue of fraudulent immigration law practitioners and the issue of researching law firms when making the decision to travel to, or bring a loved one to, the United States of America.
As the economy in the United States of America remains in recovery many find that comparing prices and services of American immigration law firms is an effective way of monitoring the costs associated with legal service. This author is not personally adverse to such practices because a prospective client should be comfortable with their legal representative from both a financial perspective as well as a service standpoint. Although, there are some enterprises on the World Wide Web posing as legitimate immigration law firms which are not lawfully permitted to engage in such activity pursuant to US Federal law. This is usually due to the fact that those involved in the operation of the firm and the handling of client matters are not licensed to practice law in an American jurisdiction, or, in some cases, have no legal training whatsoever.
The US Code of Federal Regulations is clear when it comes to the issue of who is entitled to represent clients before USCIS and the Department of Homeland Security. Only a licensed attorney in an US jurisdiction is permitted to charge fees for providing advice, counsel, and/or services in an American Immigration context. Also, American Embassies and Consulates, under the authority of the US State Department, generally will not communicate about pending matters with those who are not licensed to practice law in at least one American jurisdiction. If an individual cannot communicate with, or handle pending cases before, the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State regarding a pending immigration matter then what purpose do they serve?
Those researching the US Immigration process over the World Wide Web are prudent to scrutinize the credentials of anyone claiming expertise in US Immigration matters. A person can confirm their credentials by providing a copy of a license to practice law before a State Supreme Court in the USA, by providing a copy of an American Bar Association membership card, or a membership card signifying membership in an American State Bar Association. Even after such credentials are produced it may still be prudent to check with the licensing authority to make certain the individual in question is still in good standing and licensed to practice law.
Receiving advice from an individual who is not licensed to practice law is a perilous endeavor since communications between clients and such an individual are unlikely to receive legal protection pursuant to the doctrines of attorney-client privilege and/or lawyer-client confidentiality. Therefore, sensitive information could be conveyed to a less-than-reputable individual or operation without standing to provide proper representation. This could lead to real problems especially as authorities could gain access to sensitive information that individuals have passed to their intended representative who is not authorized to provide legal counsel.