Since President Obama announced his Executive Action that shakes up our current immigration system and will, at least temporarily, offer millions of people who are currently undocumented an opportunity to remain and work in the United States, immigration lawyers have been fielding a high volume of calls. Many people want to know what they can do now and how this action affects them. As important as what you should be doing immediately, is what you should not be doing.
1. Hire a “notario” or other Individual who is not authorized to represent you
In many countries, to become a “notario” requires as much education as to become a lawyer and those who hold this title have undergone a rigorous course of study. This is not the case in the United States. In the US, a notary is authorized to verify the authenticity of signatures and perform similar tasks. It is not a profession and no particular course of study is required. You should not hire a notary to represent you for an immigration matter. Not only would you be wasting valuable time and money, but a notario, or incompetent attorney for that matter, can leave you in a worse position than where you started. http://www.stopnotariofraud.org has valuable information on protecting yourself from notario fraud.
2. Hire a lawyer to start the process immediately
Although the executive action has been outlined, details have not yet been published and cases are not yet being accepted. This will take several months. So although you may want to review the available information and consult with an immigration lawyer about your specific circumstance, there is not enough information to move forward with a deferred action case (other than under than under the original DACA) until more details have been released.
3. Leave the USA
Many aspects of the executive order will apply to people who have lived continuously in the United States for a specified period of time. Therefore, unless you are required to do so, you should remain in the United States to apply for the benefits when they become available.
1. Collect documentation to establish your eligibility
Documents such as birth and marriage certificates, passports, visas, I-94 cards, previously issued approval notices, denials, educational and work experience documentation, along with English translations should be obtained. Other documents such as leases, tax returns and utility bills may be helpful to establish your presence in the United States. Copies are generally accepted by the USCIS.
2. Consult with a qualified immigration lawyer to review your likely eligibility and add your name to their list
Although starting the process now is ill-advised, consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer is something you can do immediately. (S)he will help determine your eligibility, and answer any questions you may have. You will want to meet a prospective lawyer with whom you can work in the future. As with most areas of law, experience and a practice devoted exclusively to immigration law are generally good signs. You can find an immigration lawyer by asking family, friends or colleagues. If that does not yield results, searching online can generally give you an idea of a particular lawyer’s reputation.
If the lawyer or firm with whom you consult keeps a list of potentially qualified candidates, be sure to be placed on the list so that you can be contacted should the lawyer be able to assist you in the future. In the past, when legalization programs have been announced, most reputable immigration law firms reached their capacity and had to stop accepting new cases. This is another reason that it may be a good idea to get your foot in the door if you meet or hear of an attorney with whom you would like to work.
3. Preparing funds for USCIS filing fees, possible back taxes, and professional fees
Benefits offered by the Executive Action won’t be free. Filing fees, back taxes, legal and possible accountant fees need to be taken into account. Although the fees have not yet been determined, one can expect that the total could well run several thousand dollars.
Stay tuned as I will be updating this page as new information becomes available on the President’s Executive Action and any action by Congress.