Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for a Green Card? Staff Profile Picture
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In the United States, you don’t need to have legal counsel when applying for an immigrant visa or green card. While it’s entirely possible to submit a visa application on your own, it’s not recommended because an attorney understands the bureaucratic intricacies that can stall or even dismiss a petition. While some have successfully petitioned for citizenship without an attorney, these cases are rare. If you’re considering representing yourself through the green card process, don’t rely on the advice of USCIS officers, as they’re not experts or even responsible for giving wrong information to applicants. It is advisable to consult an immigration attorney for their opinion before submitting any documentation. Any mistake on your visa is ground for rejection. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Apply for a Green Card?

While you don’t technically need a green card lawyer to apply for a visa, the benefits of a knowledgeable immigration attorney are worth considering. The path to obtaining a green card is an arduous one. Even with the assistance of a green card lawyer, the process can be confusing, and navigating the nuances of immigration laws alone can be challenging. Each kind of visa has a variety of different paperwork with varying costs and locations to send each document. Whether intentional or not, a small error in your paperwork or missing evidence can be devastating to the success of your petition.

A green card attorney will be able to organize information, catch any errors, and ease the process of filing forms. At first glance, the immigration forms may seem straightforward, but the rules and expectations for the forms, evidence, and required payments are complicated. An immigration attorney is more exposed to the specific requirements and can leverage their expertise for a higher likelihood of success. 

When Should I Hire an Immigration Attorney to Help With My Green Card?

Any error in your petition may result in rejection or denial, so it’s crucial to attain legal representation to ensure your best chance at a green card. But it’s not just potential applicants that need to consider hiring legal counsel. Employers and business owners looking to hire foreign workers should reach out to a lawyer to walk them through the process of sponsoring a worker for a green card. Language barriers, a multitude of immigration options, and bureaucratic delays are all likely obstacles an attorney can guide you through, saving you time and frustration.

Language Barrier

No matter what language you speak, the immigration process is tough to navigate, and that’s by design. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is looking for any reason to deny folks a green card. Translation issues are a common reason for blocking an otherwise viable petition. If you have limited proficiency in English or just want assistance translating complex legal jargon and forms, then a green card attorney who speaks your language is essential.

Narrow down Immigration options

Depending on your unique circumstances, you may qualify for multiple visas or types of green cards, but it's tough to know which is the best or fastest option. For example, an engaged person has two options for entering the U.S. They could get married in their home country and then enter the U.S. using an immigrant visa, which has the immediate pathway to a green card. Or they could get a K-1 fiancé visa, which permits entry in order to get married within a 90-day timeframe and the option to later apply for a green card through a process called an adjustment of status. An immigration attorney understands the varied fees, procedures, and processing times and can help decide which option is most advantageous and within your budget.


One of the more common circumstances many potential immigrants face when trying to get a U.S. visa is a finding by USCIS (or consulate) that they are ineligible based on admission qualifications. This claim is called Inadmissibility. There are many reasons a person may be deemed inadmissible, including having committed a crime, previously lying to the U.S. government, or having financial instability that puts you at risk of being labeled a public charge. A public charge is someone the government considers likely to depend on public benefits to meet basic needs. There’s no waiver if you’re found inadmissible based on income reasons. However, an attorney can assist you in overcoming an inadmissible determination and preparing a written argument to grant your entry.

Precarious deportation status

If you’ve currently or previously been in immigration court deportation (removal) proceedings, attorney representation is necessary to determine how the outcome will affect your application. Folks facing deportation won’t be successful using the same application as those not in deportation proceedings.

Paperwork Fatigue

Even the most straightforward U.S. immigration application involves filling out tons of forms and gathering evidence to prove your immigration eligibility. Each application varies and requires following different detailed instructions, which is overwhelming for many prospective immigrants. Make a small mistake, and the application can be rejected, delayed, or denied. Immigration attorneys are well-versed in the necessary paperwork, and many have streamlined systems. Green card lawyers use professional software that aid the  input of necessary information and produce the requisite forms quickly. Having an attorney on your team is well worth the cost for peace of mind and reducing your chances of rejection.

Bureaucratic Delay

Immigration law is notoriously convoluted, and it's overseen by a government agency that is understaffed and lacking resources. In addition, the USCIS is infamous for time delays and occasionally mixing up paperwork. Having an immigration lawyer on your side is in your best interest in this common circumstance to get your petition back on track.

Legal Resources for Immigrants

Before you contact an immigration attorney, educate yourself on the resources at your disposal for potential immigrants. Many organizations seek to simplify the immigration process and assist in citizenship, some on a reduced-fee or no-fee level. If finances are a barrier to becoming a U.S. citizen, consider contacting one of the organizations below dedicated to helping immigrants find effective and conscientious legal representation. 

Immigration scams

If you’re unsure where to begin in finding an immigration lawyer, visit the USCIS site for a detailed breakdown of attorney guidelines and things to keep in mind when choosing a lawyer. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good starting place, especially if you’re overwhelmed by the paperwork. Unfortunately, immigration scams are commonplace and can devastate many would-be immigrants’ chances of procuring a green card. Job offer scams and requests for payment to “jump the line” are just two of the scams that potential immigrants can face during the immigration process. To learn more, go to USCIS and talk to a reputable attorney about how to avoid these scams. 

United We Dream

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country whose members are leading the fight for the dignity and respect of all immigrants, regardless of status. They collaborate with undocumented youth to strategize and clear pathways to education and legal help and stop deportations. Their website features a multitude of resources for undocumented folks and potential immigrants to know their rights and understand local policies. You can also contact them directly with questions or advice, and a member of their team will get back to you. Many of the folks who work with United We Dream speak more than one language, so non-English speakers can effectively communicate with their team. 

Notifica App

For undocumented folks in the U.S., United We Dream created Notifica, an app that helps immigrants prepare against deportation. Users can download the app to plan, learn, and act if they’re at risk of being detained by deportation agents. It will even notify users of at-risk locations and advise folks to steer clear. 

Immigrant Legal Resource Center

For more than forty years, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) has educated and assisted attorneys and legal advocates in their work to help immigrants and their families. You can find an immigration preparedness toolkit on their website, available in English and Español. This free toolkit offers in-depth and easily accessible information that outlines the basics of various immigration topics. This resource also features links to helpful reference documents, fact sheets, and tools users can use to create personalized plans. 

National Association of the Deaf

Many public and private attorneys are not well-versed in ADA requirements and accommodations for folks who are deaf or hard of hearing. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is an organization dedicated to bridging this gap by providing equal access to legal services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. The NAD is committed to improving the accessibility of legal services by providing necessary accommodations such as qualified interpreters, CART, and assistive listening devices. The NAD can aid local attorneys in accessing their state communications access fund (CAF), which covers the cost of communication access services. 

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Toni XuReviewer

Toni Xu is a New York-based immigration attorney. Her practice focuses on helping immigrants with visa, green card, and citizenship applications. Visit: