Should I hire a lawyer, an agent, or process the visa myself?
Only you can answer that question. I will explain the differences to help you come to your own conclusion.
Hiring a lawyer. Most lawyers will charge anywhere from $2000 to $7000+ to process a simple fiancé or spousal visa, even more, if there are complications involved, such as children, multiple petitions, co-sponsors, etc. We get many inquiries from people who have hired lawyers, wanting information on the interview process. This is because these lawyers will often only FILE the petition for $2000, they know very little about the process at the individual embassy interview level. Each embassy has slightly different requirements. What is worse, usually these lawyers never even look at your petition, they have their paralegals do it for them. So while you may be paying the lawyer $300+ per hour, he is paying someone $15/hr to actually submit your petition. Once it leaves the NVC, you are dropped cold, that is where their assistance ends. However, the filing of the visa is the easy part, preparing proper documentation and preparing for the interview is more complicated, and more important. Some of the biggest errors and the simplest errors to prevent were done by people who had hired lawyers, and by doing so thought they would be taken care of to the end. A lawyer cannot “speed up” the process any more than someone who has done proper research, nor can a lawyer “guarantee” you a visa. So unless your case is very complicated, hiring a lawyer may create problems for you that you might not have had if you had done it yourself in the first place.
Can I do it myself?
Again, only you can answer that question. I would like to tell you that you must hire us. However, many people have the time and knowhow to get through most immigration processes on their own, or with just a little outside help. If you have extra time on your hands and are adept at doing basic internet research and filling out forms, there is no reason why you cannot complete this process yourself, or with limited assistance. If you can file your own tax return, you can do this yourself. The hardest part is finding the correct information. There is a lot of information available on the internet, some good, some bad. You just have to sift through it and determine which is the good and which is the bad. There is at least as much bad info as there is good info, so expect to spend considerable time doing your research. Keep in mind that each small error or omission will cost two months or more.
Should I use an agent?
While hiring a lawyer is very expensive and can cause problems of it’s own, hiring the right agent can remove most of the stress from the process, and assure you the least amount of problems along the way. What should you look for in an agent? You should look for an agent that specializes in the type of visa you are applying for, and from the country you want to immigrate from. Immigration laws can be very complex, and someone who specializes can stay abreast of all the current changes and requirements for specific visas from specific countries. Beware of agents who process many types of visas and/or visas from many countries, as there is way too much information for an individual or a small company to stay abreast of. Beware of agents who have a little track record, or those that advertise they can guarantee a visa (Nobody can guarantee you a visa). Beware of those whose prices seem too low, or use pushy sales tactics. Stay away from those who claim to be “high volume”, high volume generally can be translated into little personal service. Also, beware of trick pricing, many agents will quote you a fee for filing the visa, and like many lawyers will leave you hanging after that, or charge separate fees for each additional stage of the process. So be sure you are comparing apples to apples, not comparing one agent’s quote for full-service start to finish against another agent’s fee for the filing of the petition only. Ask if the price includes adjustment of status after arrival in the US. Ask if the price includes interview preparation.
So look for an agent that specializes in the types of visa you are applying for, and processes only visas from the country you are immigrating from, preferably an agent who lives in the country you are immigrating from and has native language capabilities, to be close at hand when it comes interview time, as that is when you are going to need help the most.