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Finding Free Legal Advice

Legal Representation

An individual or entity in the United States may choose to be represented by an attorney or accredited representative when filing applications or petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Know Your Rights

If you choose to have a representative when filing an application or petition with USCIS, an attorney or an accredited representative of a recognized organization may represent you. A representative must also file a “NOTICE OF ENTRY OF APPEARANCE AS ATTORNEY OR REPRESENTATIVE” (Form G-28) along with the application or petition. In matters filed within the United States, only attorneys and accredited representatives may communicate on your behalf to USCIS and receive information from USCIS regarding your application or petition.

If you need legal advice about an immigration matter but cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may be able to ask an attorney, an association of immigration lawyers, a state bar association, or an organization specially -accredited to provide such assistance about the availability of free or reduced cost legal services on immigration issues.

Attorneys

Attorneys must be a member in good standing of the “bar” of a U.S. State (or U.S. possession, territory, Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia) and not be under any court order restricting their practice of law. Attorneys will check the first block on Form G-28 and must provide information regarding their admission to practice. The best way to protect yourself is to ask to see the current attorney licensing document for the attorney, make a note of the admission number if any, and to contact the State bar admission authorities to verify the information. A lawfully admitted attorney should honor your request for this information, as State Bar practice rules require disclosure of this information to clients. You may also access this information through the website located at the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC.) See the Ethics link, then click on Bar Associations and Disciplinary Authorities.

Accredited Representatives

Accredited representatives must work for a Recognized Organization in order to be eligible to represent you before USCIS and file a Form G-28. They may be authorized to practice before the Immigration Courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and/or USCIS. The best way to protect yourself is to ask to see a copy of the BIA decision granting official recognition to the Accredited Representative and Recognized Organization. Recognized organizations may only charge nominal fees, if any, for providing services in immigration matters. An accredited representative of a recognized organization should honor your request. You may also check the Recognition Accreditation Roster maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR.)

While other individuals (notary publics and immigration consultants) may assist you by filling in the blanks on pre-printed USCIS forms with information provided by you, these individuals may NOT represent you before USCIS. In addition, notary publics and immigration consultants may only charge nominal fees as regulated by state law. Individuals helping you in this way are required by law to disclose to USCIS their assistance by completing the section at the bottom of a petition or application concerning the “Preparer” of the form.

How to Protect Yourself from Becoming a Victim

DO NOT sign blank applications, petitions or other papers.
DO NOT sign documents that you do not understand.
DO NOT sign documents that contain false statements or inaccurate information.
DO NOT let anyone keep your original documents.
DO NOT make payments to a representative without getting a receipt.
DO obtain copies of all documents prepared or submitted for you.
DO verify an attorney’s or accredited representative’s eligibility to represent you.
DO report any representative’s unlawful activity to USCIS, State Bar Associations and/or State Offices of Attorneys General.

This page can be found at http://www.uscis.gov/legaladvice

 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 12/17/2010