It is not uncommon for Immigrant Visa applicants to proceed without legal representation.  However, unfortunately, it is a very risky and ill-advised strategy.

US immigration law is a very complex area of law. In many cases, there are multiple options available to a visa applicant (some of which are circumstance-specific). In addition, there are multiple grounds of inadmissibility, which can inadvertently be triggered by a petitioner or visa applicant, through inappropriate use of language and terminology. Indeed, it takes US immigration attorneys several years of study to qualify and become competent to represent members of the public.  We would therefore advise members of the public contemplating an application for a US Immigrant Visa to seek advice from a licensed US immigration attorney, prior to embarking upon an application.

What Are The Risks Associated With Making An Application For A US Immigrant Visa Without Legal Representation?

Unfortunately, there are multiple risks at every stage of the process:

  1. Immigrant Visa Petition

At the petition stage of the process, issues can arise if the Immigrant Visa petition is filed at the incorrect USCIS office location or, in the case of U.S filing, sent to the wrong service center. This can cause significant delay and, in many cases, may result in rejection of the petition by the USCIS.

Furthermore, the petitioner may inadvertently file the petition at a USCIS office location which has a lengthy processing time, in circumstances where they may have been eligible to file the petition at a USCIS office location with a significantly shorter processing time, had they sought legal advice regarding the timing of their petition filing or the location of filing. In some cases, making a sensible decision regarding the timing of a petition filing can make the difference between receiving a US Immigrant Visa within a matter of months or waiting up to a year to receive a visa.

In the event the petition is properly filed, issues may arise if vital evidence is missing from the petition packet. If the USCIS issues a request for further evidence, it may significantly delay the processing time of the petition.

Moreover, if the USCIS is not satisfied, in the case of a fiancé or spousal relationship, that the relationship is a bona fide relationship, it may result in denial of the Immigrant Visa petition. If an Immigrant Visa petition is denied on this basis, the visa applicant may need to act quickly in order to seek advice on the options available to them. Furthermore, the denial may have repercussions for the intended beneficiary of the petition, in the event they subsequently travel to the U.S. These repercussions can be significant and far reaching, especially given that the adjudicating officer may making a finding of fraud that may in turn result in the beneficiary becoming ineligible to travel to the U.S in any capacity.

In light of the complex nature of the Immigrant Visa petition filing process, the potential delay caused by an incomplete petition packet and the consequences of a denial to the intended beneficiary, we would recommend that anyone contemplating filing an Immigrant Visa petition seeks legal advice regarding their current circumstances before proceeding.

  1. Visa Application
  • DS-260

In the event the Immigrant Visa petition is approved by the USCIS, difficulties may arise if the DS-260 is not completed correctly, particularly if, for example, the visa applicant erroneously selects an answer which results in the US Embassy or NVC making further inquiries, to determine if the visa applicant is admissible to the US.

  • Medical Examination

Similarly, the purpose of the medical examination is to determine if the Immigrant Visa applicant is inadmissible to the U.S, on health-grounds. It is therefore imperative that the Immigrant Visa applicant seeks advice in advance of the medical examination, in order to minimize their risk of being considered inadmissible to the U.S on health-grounds, particularly if, for example, they have convictions involving drug or alcohol use.

  • Affidavit of Support

One of the most complex and challenging stages of a US Immigrant Visa application is the execution of the Affidavit of Support. In short, the Affidavit of Support is a contract in which the petitioner agrees to financially support the intending immigrant in the US, in the event the need arises. The purpose of the Affidavit of Support is to ensure the intending immigrant is not inadmissible to the US, on grounds that he/she is at risk of becoming a public charge.

In order to successfully execute an Affidavit of Support, a myriad of issues need to be determined and addressed including the appropriate Federal Poverty Guideline figures, the household size of the affiant (which is often a matter of strategy), whether income, savings or assets are used to meet the financial requirement, the location of the income/savings/assets in question, the IRS obligations of the affiant and the domicile of the affiant. In many cases, successful execution of the Affidavit of Support is as much about strategy, planning and attention to detail as it is about the circumstances of the petitioner, his household or any joint sponsor.

The Affidavit of Support is vital to the success of an Immigrant Visa application; if it is not executed correctly, at best, it may result in visa denial, pending a request for further evidence (which may cause significant delay) and, at worst, it may result in an outright  denial of the Immigrant Visa application.

  • The US Embassy Interview

Issues may arise at the US Embassy interview if, for example, the Immigrant Visa applicant does not have all of the requisite evidence in their possession at the time of the interview or provides answers to interview questions which give the Consular Officer cause for concern.

A good US Immigration Attorney will preempt the documents likely to be requested by the US Embassy and will seek to address issues before they arise, to minimize the risk of issues arising on the day of the US Embassy interview. Similarly, a good US Immigration attorney will prepare their client for interview, so their client feels at ease at interview.

  • The Consequences Of An Immigrant Visa Denial

The consequences of a US Immigrant Visa denial can be devastating. An Immigrant Visa denial renders the visa applicant ineligible to travel to the US on ESTA. As a result, an Immigrant Visa applicant who has been denied an Immigrant Visa will require a tourist visa to enter the US thereafter. It may be difficult for the Immigrant Visa applicant to satisfy the US Embassy that they have non-immigrant intent and thereby obtain a tourist visa, if they have recently demonstrated immigrant intent by applying for an Immigrant Visa. Therefore, an unsuccessful Immigrant Visa applicant may experience difficulty obtaining entry to the US in future.

Furthermore, the Doctrine of Consular Non-Reviewability means the vast majority of Immigrant Visa denials cannot be appealed. Legal advice would need to be sought in order to identify if there are any grounds of appeal and, if so, the prospects of success.

As a result of the above, it is imperative to seek legal advice prior to embarking upon an application for an Immigrant Visa, in order to maximize your prospects of success and reduce the risk of receiving a visa denial or request for further evidence.

“I Have Had A Brush With The Law And Would Like To Represent Myself In An Immigrant Visa Application. Is This Advisable?”

We would recommend that any prospective Immigrant Visa applicant seeks legal advice prior to filing an Immigrant Visa application, if they have ever been arrested, cautioned or convicted of any criminal offense or have ever had a brush with the law of any kind, however minor.

If inadmissibility to the U.S is found on criminal grounds, the US Immigrant Visa applicant may require a waiver of inadmissibility, which can take approximately 12 months to process. However, in some circumstances, it is possible for a US immigration attorney to address a criminal record using legal argument, to ensure no inadmissibility is found, thereby avoiding the lengthy processing time associated with filing an application for a waiver of inadmissibility.

Davies Legal Immigration

At Davies Legal Immigration, we offer advice and representation in connection with all aspects of U.S immigration, from our London and Atlanta offices. We offer a fully flexible service, timely responses to your correspondence and innovative immigration solutions, at a competitive, transparent fixed fee. Call now for your free price quotation and for preliminary advice regarding the merits of your case.

Published: 9th May 2018