How Much Does an Immigration Lawyer Cost?
Reviewed by Carina Jenkins, J.D.
An immigration case can have a big impact on your life. You may need to gather evidence, file complex legal documents and face questions from government officials. Mistakes in the process could leave you unable to work, separated from loved ones or facing deportation.
An attorney can help you navigate immigration issues, but their services will come at a price.
Most immigration lawyers charge an hourly rate or a flat fee for services. The fee structure depends on the lawyer's preference and the type of case.
If an immigration lawyer charges an hourly rate, they'll probably ask you to pay a retainer before they start work on your matter. The retainer usually covers a certain number of hours. For example, if a lawyer charges $200 per hour, they might ask for a $2,000 retainer to cover 10 hours of work. You'll be asked to pay additional money if your case takes more time. If there's money left at the end of your case, the lawyer will give it back to you.
Hourly fee structures are useful when it's difficult to predict how much time a case will take, such as when:
- The case requires hearings in front of an immigration judge
- There are unusual or complicated issues
- The client has ongoing needs, such as a business seeking work visas for employees
However, hourly rates can apply to nearly any case.
Some lawyers charge a set amount for a service; regardless of how much time the lawyer spends completing a task, the client pays the flat fee. This fee structure is usually easier for the lawyer and gives the client some assurance about the total cost.
Most lawyers require the client to pay all or part of the fee before work begins. Sometimes, lawyers charge flat fees for each phase of a case. For example, the lawyer might charge one flat fee to file documents and require an additional fee to assist with hearings or interviews.
Flat fees are most likely when the amount of work is relatively predictable. In immigration law, flat fees may be available for things like applying for a visa for your spouse or fiancé.
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According to Thervo, rates for immigration lawyers typically range from around $150 to $300, but experienced lawyers in big cities could charge more. Whether you hire a lawyer who charges an hourly rate or a flat fee, the total cost will depend on what kind of help you need.
Some lawyers offer free initial consultations to help you decide whether to hire them. Other lawyers may charge a consultation fee similar to their hourly rate.
The total cost for these cases can be significant due to multiple hearings before an immigration judge. Your lawyer may need to file lengthy documents with the court, gather evidence and call witnesses. You may pay between $2,000 and $10,000 or even more for a lawyer.
Attorney fees for work visas can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. An attorney for filing the application for a spousal visa usually costs around $700 to $800. You should expect to pay an additional fee to have a lawyer attend any required immigration interviews with you.
Costs for permanent residence, or green card, applications vary by circumstances. If you're petitioning for a parent or sibling to come to the United States, the attorney's fee may be similar to those for a spouse's application. An adjustment of status is typically around $800 or more. A lawyer for more unusual applications, like those involving an extraordinary ability, can cost a few thousand dollars.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is a government agency responsible for processing most immigration applications. USCIS charges filing fees for most applications, and sometimes, there are other fees associated with an immigration request as well. These fees can range from less than $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the type of immigration matter and required documents. You'll need to pay USCIS fees in addition to your lawyer's fees.
With such a wide range of possible fees for an immigration lawyer, you may wonder what factors influence these costs. Several things can affect how much you pay for a lawyer:
- Your geographic location, as well as where the lawyer is located
- Whether you have an impending deadline or a case that requires immediate work
- The complexity of your situation and whether significant evidence or research will be required
- Whether something about your situation, like a criminal history, will make the case more difficult
- How long the case is going to take
- If your case will require a deportation hearing or multiple interviews with government officials
Cases that involve unusual facts or unique legal circumstances or will take an unknown amount of time are more likely to require an hourly fee and may end up costing more. Although an immigration lawyer can feel like a big expense, having experienced legal help can increase your chances of a successful outcome.
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