This is a question I hear quite often, and the answer is not always easy. If the question comes from somebody who has a terrible case, who is in Deporation (“REMOVAL”), who has a criminal record, who has a “blemish” on the way he or she entered the U.S., who wishes to get an employment-based Green Card – the answer is simple: yes, you need a lawyer, and not just any lawyer – an EXPERIENCED IMMIGRATION LAWYER.
But if the person asking DO I NEED A LAWYER has a relatively simple case based on marriage (a good marriage!) to a U.S. citizen, or on a parent’s petition, or even a plain Application for Naturalization (CITIZENSHIP) – do they need a lawyer? I believe that the young MR. BROWN would say: Yes. (BROWN is his real name and story is taken from a real case.)
Mr. Brown immigrated to the U.S. with his father and mother when he was NINE years old. They all got GREEN CARDS. When he was FIFTEEN, his father and mother filed applications to become American citizens. His father’s application was approved very fast and he became a U.S. citizen, but his mother’s application was delayed and delayed and her citizenship ceremony took place only after Mr. Brown passed age EIGHTEEN. The delay of the mother’s citizenship had negative consequences for the young Mr. Brown: if BOTH his parents had become American citizens before he reached age EIGHTEEN, he would have become a citizen, too, automatically. (This was the law at that time.)
The young Mr. Brown (and his parents) understood that he had not become an American citizen, and some time later he filed his own Application for Naturalization. But at the time of his interview, the Immigration Officer noticed that both his parents were already American citizens – and cancelled Mr. Brown’s application with the explanation that he did not need it because he already was an American citizen based on the naturalization of his two parents. BIG MISTAKE.
After some time, Mr. Brown (not so young anymore) got into trouble with the law. The Immigration Service put him into DEPORTATION. His GREEN CARD was cancelled and he was sent back to the country from which he came from at age 9. All this – DEPORTATION following a criminal conviction would not have happened to Mr. Brown had he actually become an American citizen before he became a “client” of the criminal legal system.
What were the mistakes committed by Mr. Brown and his parents when he was still the young Mr. Brown? Not having an IMMIGRATION LAWYER on two occasions.
When his mother’s citizenship case was delayed – an immigration lawyer could have helped to push it through faster, before the son reached age EIGHTEEN. And when the Immigration Officer refused to grant Mr. Brown citizenship because the Officer thought he was already a citizen – which was a legal error – an immigration lawyer could have guarded his client, the young Mr. Brown, from the harm of this error.
So, every time a client asks me DO I NEED A LAWYER?, I think of the case of Mr. Brown.