Let’s face it – you can google anything nowadays and get free advice on just about everything. Thanks to the World Wide Web, free information is right at your fingertips. It’s an amazing thing, but it can also be scary. Scary because how do you know the free advice you’re getting is the right advice for you?
Fewer things can be scarier than an immigration case gone awry due to bad immigration advice. But it can happen, it does happen. I meet with clients all the time who are misinformed due to what they’ve read on the net or even what they’ve been told by calling the toll free USCIS 1-800 number. For example, I had a lovely couple who came to my office looking to get a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen. She was from the U.K., living in the U.K. and she and her then fiance knew that they wanted to get married. So, they called the USCIS 1-800 number and someone there told her to enter the U.S. on her tourist visa (which she already had) and then get married and file her “papers” in the U.S.
Whoa! This advice she was given is certainly contrary to what I would’ve advised her and her future husband if they had called my office. She entered the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa (B1/B2) with immigrant intent (she wasn’t visiting the U.S. for pleasure, she was visiting the U.S. to get married and become a U.S. Permanent Resident). This dual intent is impermissible for tourist visa holders.
Thankfully this story has a happy ending, but not without some heartache that could’ve been avoided. Heartache is one thing – a visa fraud determination, deportation, getting arrested – these are all entirely different things and things that could happen if the one-size-fits-all free immigration advice doesn’t work for your particular case and facts.
So, what should you do with that free immigration advice you read somewhere on the internet or were told by your brother’s wife’s mother who had almost the same situation as you?
- DO seek out an experienced, qualified immigration lawyer who is willing to give you a free consultation to evaluate your case. Once an evaluation is done, you will then be able to better decide whether or not you want to hire the attorney or whether you feel like you can handle the case on your own.
- DO make an InfoPass appointment at your local USCIS office. There, you can speak with an Information Officer in person who might be able to confirm whether that free advice you got is advice you should follow. The Information Officers at the Norfolk USCIS office, which is an office that serves Virginia Beach, Norfolk, all of Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore and Richmond areas, are seasoned (not contractors like you might get when you call the 1-800 number) and again, you’re engaging in face-to-face communication. You can hand them your documents to show them, they can look information up for you, and they can give you the forms and applications that are applicable to your case.
- DO realize that you should not take action with free advice given to you if your case is complicated. How do you know if your case is complicated or not? Sometimes it’s readily apparent, other times it’s not. Some examples of factors that might complicate your immigration case include:
- you’ve been charged with a crime or convicted of a crime
- you’ve overstayed your visa
- you entered the U.S. without inspection and you’ve traveled back and forth between the U.S. and your country
- you haven’t abided by the terms of your H-1B visa (i.e., you’re working a side job ‘under the table’)
These are just a few examples and by no means represent the variety of complications that can exist.
Sometimes the best things in life are free. Other times you get what you pay for (or in the case of free advice, what you didn’t pay for). While I encourage everyone to take advantage of free information by researching all you can about your case and being informed, I believe that you should always proceed with caution when acting on free immigration advice.
Now it’s your turn – have you ever used free immigration advice and benefited from it? Or has free advice ever been detrimenal to your case? Tell us what you think in our comments section.
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